TV Upfront Commitments Drop for First Time in Five Years

Mindy Project Season Finale Episodic - H 2014
Jordin Althaus/FOX

Mindy Project Season Finale Episodic - H 2014

NBC is the lone broadcast network to see a lift from the 2013-14 season, as even cable sales drop for the first time since the recession.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Now that television upfront deals for the 2014-15 season nearly are complete, it's clear that both broadcast and cable networks collectively have dropped for the first time since the recession-stifled 2009-10 season. Total primetime commitments are down 6.2 percent compared with last season to $18.13 billion, according to consulting firm Media Dynamics Inc.

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Broadcast fared the worst, down 7.7 percent, while cable fell 4.7 percent. For cable, that marks the first drop after a four-year growth spurt. Still, CPMs (cost-per-thousand viewers) are increasing -- as much as 8 percent for NBC, which was No. 1 last season in the 18-to-49 demo and has the Super Bowl in 2015. NBC is the only network to not post a loss this selling season, booking $2.52 billion in commitments — a 12 percent jump from the prior year.

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One trend that should please broadcast and cable execs is a strong upfront debut for live-plus-7 buys. After years making deals based solely on live-plus-3 ratings currency, this upfront market drew an estimated 24 percent of its commitments from so-called "C7" buys. That means advertisers finally are warming to the networks' years-old pitch to take seven additional days of playback into account when buying space.