Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Advertisers Win the Battle for Lower TV Rates

TV giants have been saying they don’t intend to lower their TV rates, no matter how bad the recession gets. After all, it’s still valuable real estate that reaches millions of viewers.

There’s news leaking out that the giants are sinking bit by bit, though, and that’s made them slightly more amenable to negotiating lower rates. The price drops are small, by all accounts – but when the TV networks had been saying they wouldn’t budge at all, even a small drop is a big victory for advertisers.

Broadcast networks have been seeing fewer advertisers willing to spend big money for TV spots for the last year. Declining ratings and the auto industry’s difficulties are also contributing factors, seeing as car ads are one of the most common appearances on TV.

The upfronts are also looking at a makeover. Previously, TV networks would sell commitments to deliver viewers, usually in lots of 1,000 viewers. They would also save some commitments to sell when the commercials were closer to air time, in hopes of negotiating a higher rate if the show were doing well. Advertisers preferred buying in advance if the show did well; the networks preferred selling late.

Now that trend is reversed. Hewlett-Packard has decided to wait and see if the audience they’re seeking actually tunes in, abandoning the upfronts. If their reaction is any indication, networks may have to cut their rates simply to pull in those upfront dollars – though for some, it’s worth the risk to wait.

Rather than get low, but guaranteed, upfront rates now, the networks may take a chance on the strength of their shows and hope for higher rates when it’s closer to commercial time. It’s a lot of pressure on the fall lineup.