Cable upfront: Expect the top networks to match broadcast in CPM increases

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Media Life’sMedia Economy Newsletter” recently called on our  Sr. VP Media Director Cheryl Green to weigh in on the evolving cable advertising landscape. Cheryl was recently honored as leading cable media buyer by CableFAX,  in their 2011 “Sweet 16 of Cable.”  Read what Cheryl had to say below:

The broadcast upfront is well underway. Fox is close to wrapping up its sales, ABC and the CW cut several deals this week, and CBS and NBC have begun talks with buyers. All are expected to top analysts’ earlier estimates, with Fox and CBS seeing CPM gains in the low double digits.

Though buyers say cable negotiations have not yet begun, a number of networks seem poised for an equally strong showing as broadcast in terms of CPM gains, which should push this year’s total broadcast and upfront tally to a record total.

This year cable’s spending is expected to match broadcast, at around $9.2 billion.

Buyers say they were impressed with this year’s cable upfront presentations and have high expectations for the coming season, including the resumption of ratings gains after a recent flatlining.

“Cable has the potential to match broadcast this year in upfront dollars based on the new programming lineup, which includes much star power that is estimated to deliver decent rating points for cable,” says Cheryl Green, senior vice president and media director at Mercury Media.

Green notes that there have been an increasing number of advertisers testing out cable in recent years. She says that’s partly due to the fact that cable offers opportunities that broadcast cannot.

“With the sponsorship opportunities available on cable, many advertisers are moving dollars not only for CPM efficiency, but also for out-of-the-box offers with added-value components that are not as easily assessable in broadcast,” Green says.

As for which networks will fare best, analysts say TNT and TBS, coming off a very successful first part of the year based mostly on sports, stand to see higher CPM gains than most other networks.

USA, the longtime No. 1 network in primetime among total viewers, ESPN, which carries “Monday Night Football,” and smaller networks like Bravo and ABC Family, which both saw record ratings this year, are other networks buyers say are poised for strong upfronts.

“As expected, we think Turner will look to be the most aggressive in the upfront negotiations, hoping to book about 10 percent CPM increases, with the cable net industry broadly booking 6 percent to 9 percent increases,” says John Janedis, a senior analyst at UBS.

A slightly more optimistic view comes from a New York buyer, who tells the Media Economy Newsletter:

“The top five or six networks might get 10 to 12 percent increases, the bottom ones might be happy with 5 percent increases, and everyone else in the middle might get 7s, 8s and 9s.”

But while cable will likely have its best year ever, after seeing year-to-year gains in all but two of the past 20 years, buyers caution that there’s still a wide gap between the two media.

Cable’s cumulative audience, across more than 70 networks, does better broadcast’s draw, but in terms of reaching a mass audience broadcast remains the better choice.

While the Big Four broadcast networks are available in more than 114 million households, most top cable networks are available in 100 million or fewer. “Even lower-rated broadcast networks deliver a larger household reach than the top cable networks do, so I would not say we’ve reached the point yet” where there’s little differentiation between broadcast and cable, Green says.

As Sr. VP of Media for Mercury Media Boston, Cheryl leads a team of 20 direct response media professionals. With over 15 years of experience in direct response media, Cheryl prides herself on the strength of her long-standing relationships within the industry. She has an in-depth understanding of metric analysis via direct response marketing ensuring Mercury continues to provide savvy, effective and cost efficient media plans with high ROIs across various industries. Under her leadership, Mercury Media became the first agency to provide clients with Direct Response national cable sponsorships, create quarterly media package deals across numerous networks and provide clients with guaranteed media results against their marketing objectives.

Contact her at

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