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Upfronts 2018: Fewer Options Than Ever

April 26th, 2018   ||    by Charlene Weisler

As we move into the upfronts 2018 selling season, there are trends afoot that could have implications for those brands seeking TV inventory.

Here’s where to tune your focus this season:

Less Inventory

For one thing, more networks are reducing the amount of inventory on offer for upfronts 2018. NBCU is one of several media companies that announced it will reduce the number of ad minutes in its primetime commercial pods starting in the fourth quarter, according to Variety. Turner, Viacom, and Fox also announced cuts in the amount of ad inventory in some of their programs.

These efforts come in response to declining attention paid to on-air ads by viewers who can block, mute, fast-forward, or even jump platforms to seek ad-free alternatives. In the past, viewers tended to tolerate more ad time due to a lack of content-delivery alternatives; but now, advertising not only has to be relevant, it must be less disruptive as well. So in terms of supply and demand, a smaller supply of inventory—while preferred by viewers—could result in higher prices for advertisers.

In addition, there’s increasing interest in establishing a form of television attribution measurement similar to what exists in digital. But while many are working on such an effort, nothing has yet been embraced by the industry. The most recent effort, through Data Plus Math, focuses on multi-touch attribution (MTA) and its outcomes by tracing the link between a commercial and an actual sale. But few networks have signed up at this time.

More Reach, Less Risk

The good news for advertisers seeking TV during upfronts 2018 is all the advantages the medium offers in terms of safety, guarantees, and measurement. The recent controversy of Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data has set the digital world on edge, as have ongoing issues with fake news and ad placement near objectionable content.

Companies such as NBCU are introducing new ad formats that move beyond the traditional 30-second spot, facilitated by new technology, dynamic ad insertion, and artificial intelligence. These might include a 60-second prime pod limited to two sponsors in the first or last break of a show that feeds off the context of the program itself, or commercials allowing brands to insert real-time commentary like that found on Twitter.

More Local

Local TV is fast becoming a viable alternative to both digital channels and national television. Increasing automation enables the stitching of local markets nationwide, and the rollout of ATSC 3.0 technology will bring more digital applications to local stations.

“Local has historically been more expensive than national broadcast, especially when including the top-ten DMA’s as part of your media buy,” says media sales consultant Hanna Gryncwajg. “But now, the technology is making the buying of local inventory easier through automation, and the higher prices expected in national broadcast will make local more competitive.”

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