TV dealmaking season wraps up; prices, volume down

Thu Aug 6, 2009 8:16pm EDT
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Advertisers bought about 15 percent less commercial time from networks ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox for the upcoming TV season and -- for the first time in years -- paid less for the airtime they did purchase.

Advertising and broadcast television executives said nearly all of the dealmaking for the 2009-2010 TV season had wrapped up by late Thursday, following months of what they described as protracted and frustrating negotiations.

Even after the completion of the upfront season, when TV networks often sell about 75 percent of their commercial time, the two sides disagreed about who was to blame for the delay. The upfront market is often finished in June.

"The media agencies were in a tough spot between client expectations and market realities," said one TV executive, referring to the buyers who negotiate time on behalf of advertisers like Procter & Gamble or Ford.

"It took us a month to find equilibrium there."

An executive at a media agency took another view.

"The buyers were hearing it loud and clear from clients, they needed to get better value in the market. Our clients were insistent. Eventually, the TV networks understood that. They understood they needed to get into negative pricing."

Executives on both sides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be seen negotiating in public, agreed that the upfront market would be about 15 percent smaller than a year ago, when about $9 billion worth of deals were struck.   Continued...