TV Advertisers Skeptical of Reboot Craze and Reduced Ad Loads

A Million Little Things Still 1 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of ABC

Roseanne may be a runaway hit, but Madison Avenue ad buyers still are skeptical of the reboot craze that's gripping broadcast television.

So say the collection surveyed by THR following a frenzied upfront week full of pitches and spin. As one puts it: "The networks need hits, but I'm a viewer too, and it's disheartening that they can't come up with new concepts." Those buyers — speaking anonymously so as not to influence coming negotiations when they and their peers are expected to commit more than $9 billion across the broadcast networks (potentially down ever so slightly from 2017's $9.7 billion haul) — also offered muted praise for CBS' inclusive new lineup, which follows a 2016 crop featuring all white leads, and bemoaned the seemingly terminal NFL pitch from Fox, which in January unveiled a five-year, $3 billion deal for Thursday Night Football.

But with an infinitesimal spread among CBS, ABC and Fox in 18-49 demo ratings and an overall downward trend in linear viewership, buyers concede that the new shows don't have much bearing on where they put their money anymore. "You're buying the network instead of [the shows], which didn't used to be the case," explains David Campanelli, director of national TV at Horizon Media. The reason: With few exceptions, it's harder for a single show to become a game-changer at a network today. So, in addition to ratings, a key for buyers is brand consistency — and most of those who spoke to THR praise the clear brand propositions at both NBC and ABC, with several touting This Is Us-esque offerings like NBC's Manifest and ABC's A Million Little Things.

To buyers' delight, the networks spent far less time at this year's pitchfests focused on analytics. In years prior, several presentations were festooned with pie charts and data graphs promising ever more sophisticated data that the industry (read: the Nielsen sample on which the vast majority of advertising is sold and guaranteed) does not support. "A company like CBS has 30 [million] or 40 million viewers a day; they have scale, what they don't have is data," says Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of VOD service Xumo. "They can't compete with digital in terms of two-way activation on advertising. If they try, they're going to be outclassed."

Where at least a few didn't fare as well, however, was with solutions. Indeed, the trend toward reduced ad loads — "JAZ pods" at Fox, "prime pods" at NBC — was greeted with a decidedly mixed reaction from buyers. While many welcome the promise of greater resonance for their messages in a less cluttered environment, they also question the markup, which can be as much as 50 percent more than the standard CPM (cost per thousand viewers). Says one: "It's tough math to swallow."

This story first appeared in the May 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.