Are Network TV Ad Sales Terrible? Or Just Bad? And When Will We Know?
The TV industry’s traditional “upfront” sales season–the networks’ springtime sprint to hawk most of their ad inventory for the coming year–has come to a close. Which means it’s time for another TV industry tradition: Guessing how much ad inventory the networks sold during the upfronts.
Estimates vary widely, but they’re all bad–as we thought they would be. Variety says ad agencies think the four broadcast networks–News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, Disney’s (DIS) ABC, GE’s (GE) NBC and CBS (CBS)–plus the pint-sized CW, may have seen sales drop by 10 percent to 12 percent compared to last year. Ad Age thinks the decline could by as much as 15 percent. Mediaweek says sales are down a staggering 22 percent.
The other bit of consistency is the explanation for the drop, which is two-pronged: Sales are down both because the economy is bad and because the networks are offering less inventory than they normally would. They’re holding back lots of their spots in hopes of selling them at higher prices later in the year, presumably when the economy comes roaring back.
I’ll let bigger brains than mine handicap the odds of that happening (but for the record, you can color me skeptical). In the meantime, let’s see what depressed TV ad prices do to prices for Web video ads.