TV Upfronts Defy Predictions of Doom and Gloom

The Good Doctor Still - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Liane Hentscher/ABC

Even as ratings sink, analysts estimate ad sales volume is up 3? percent to 4? percent over 2016.

Good news for multiple networks from the TV upfronts (the recently wrapped selling season). Despite ratings dips, analysts predict the broadcast nets' haul will be up from 2016, when the upfronts brought in $18.5 billion across cable and broadcast, according to Standard Media Index.

Jefferies & Co. estimates primetime commitments will be 3 percent higher, and Pivotal Research Group is looking at a 4 percent increase. This comes as the promise of digital advertising has hit a wall, with major brands including Coca-Cola and JPMorgan Chase pulling adds from Google platforms including YouTube over concerns about their ads running next to offensive content including hate speech and terrorism videos.

Says NBCUniversal ad sales chairman Linda Yaccarino: "The inability of companies of that magnitude to guarantee brand safety was truly the straw that broke the camel's back."

CBS saw growth in morning, daytime and late-night, with some low double-digit CPM (cost per thousand viewers) increases in those dayparts, with demand for CBS This Morning and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which beat out Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show among total viewers last season. The CW saw volume increases between 3 and 5 percent with CPM increases in the high single to low double digits. ABC — which this year consolidated its sales efforts across broadcast, cable and digital under new ad sales chief Rita Ferro — realized CPM increases in the high single digit range and saw double digit increases in late night and kids. Fox, which had flat volume, saw CPM increases between 6 and 8 percent.

Meanwhile, NBCUniversal, which boasts the No. 1 broadcast network in the 18-49 demographic, had its best upfront ever. The network wrote deals worth close to $6.5 billion on inventory across its portfolio, an increase of 8 percent compared to 2016.

“I think people underestimate the ability of broadcast television, from sports to a show like This Is Us, to immediately capture the country’s attention,” adds Yaccarino. “And that’s what advertisers want — and they have less and less opportunity to do that these days.”


How did they do? ?CPM increases in high-single-digit range; double-digit increases in late night and kids.
Biggest lures: The Good Doctor, The Mayor

How did they do? ?Growth in morning, daytime and late night; low-double-digit CPM increases in those dayparts.
Biggest lures: CBS This Morning, The Late Show

How did they do? ?With flat volume, CPM increased 6 percent to 8 percent.
Biggest lures: Empire, The Gifted, The Mick, Star

How did they do? Had its best upfront ever, with deals worth $6.5 billion across NBCUni networks, up 8 percent over 2016.
Biggest lures: This Is Us, Will & Grace

A version of this story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.