It looks to be a modest year for upfront advertising sales on the U.S. networks. The lone exception could be CBS, which gives every indication that it will be able to ride the success of Survivor all the way to the bank.
The upfront ad market – advertising being sold now, well in advance of next season, which usually represents about three-quarters of all advertising sold – got a boost when NBC and ABC reportedly dropped ad rates (by 5% to 7%, according to a report in Broadcasting & Cable) in expectation of slow summer sales. Fox is telling the trades that it expects to match last year’s numbers (thanks to small rate decreases offset by interest brought on by healthier ratings), while UPN and the WB look to make small gains over last year (although both networks sell in the hundreds of millions compared to the billions for the big four). Overall, industry estimates have put upfront sales in the range of US$7.4 billion, off from $8 billion last year.
CBS has refused to offer discounts but is still projected by most to do the best in the upfronts. It has chosen to hang on to advertising space not selling this time around, hoping for strong follow-up sales in the scatter market – the ad time sold closer to air date. The reason for its optimism: what is expected to be one of the strongest fall line-ups, headed by the third season of Survivor.
Along with regular advertising, CBS is selling sponsorships for the next installment of Survivor, which will turn the Shaba Game Reserve in Kenya into the center of the television world for one month. Inside.com reports that sponsorships include one or two 30-second spots per show as well as on-air product placement for this series and the next. The price tag is reported to be between $20 million and $25 million.