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Upfronts: TV Doing Just Dandy Without Viewers

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Here’s a pleasant surprise if you work in the broadcast TV business: it turns out that the fact that no one watches your shows anymore is no impediment to running a successful business. It may even help. Mediaweek reports that, counter to expectations and despite a recession, advertisers are paying more this upfront season for the fewer eyeballs that broadcasters have to sell, with this year’s advance ad sales expected to top $9 billion.

A couple intriguing points from the article:

Another reason the broadcast networks could have had an advantage, one network sales executive suggested, is that the size or “clout” of several media agencies actually might have worked against them. “There are now only a handful of super-sized agencies that have to get money placed on each network for hundreds of clients,” the network sales exec said. “While the agency can use clout and threaten to walk away rather than paying what it believes to be price increases that are too high, the network can also refuse to do a deal, and make the agency’s many clients unhappy. Too much clout can actually hamper an agency’s ability to dictate terms.”

And although much ink was spilled over The CW’s ratings declines this season, its narrowly targeted audience is evidently still worth something:

The CW was actually helped by having five hours less inventory to sell [the network syndicated out its Sunday nights to Media Rights Capital to program] and by doing away with the more male-skewing WWE Smackdown on Friday nights. While the network took in only about $385 million vs. $575 million last year, that figure was about equal to its Monday-Friday upfront take last year.

Broadcast TV, in other words, still has the reach to draw in the big bucks this year. Of course, in a constrained economic environment, one would imagine that advertisers are going to have to save money in some parts of their media budgets this year. Some outlets and types of media are going to have to sell less advertising, right? If only we could figure out wh— whoops! Gotta go, folks! Time to clean out my desk!

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