What’s Trending at This Year’s Upfronts

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Filed Under: Media Trends

By this point in the spring, most major TV networks have already spent countless hours meeting with their advertising partners to share a sneak peek of what’s in store for this year’s highly anticipated network programming. The name of the game is demand creation – networks have and will continue to pull out all of the stops as they showcase their unique show content and superior ratings in hopes of winning as many advertising dollars as quickly as possible.

After being showered with over-the-top celebrity-studded network presentations and themed parties, it will be time for the advertising partners to roll up their sleeves, crunch the numbers until the wee hours of the morning, and put on their game faces for round after round of intense network negotiations.

Here are a few themes that  we’re seeing at this year’s upfronts:

Original = Quality. Original programming used to be primarily the domain of the broadcast networks, but now it’s, central to all television networks and  become synonymous with quality engagement. Networks across the board are making huge pushes to come out with new content and are reaping the rewards. This year, Bravo is coming out with 17 original series and is continuing 18 of its new shows from last year. According to Nielsen, the network is up 8% in viewers year to date after adding 126 new advertisers in 2012 and seeing double-digit percentage growth in national and digital ad revenue.

Whether it is a drama channel like TNT, USA or Lifetime or a comedy network like TBS or Comedy Central, networks are seeing big ROI for their original programming, and advertisers are taking note.

Viewership is following that content. Audiences, and advertisers, continue to be loyal to good content, no matter where it appears. While broadcast ratings used to rank high above those of cable, we’ve been gradually seeing that change over the years. A year to year fourth quarter comparison showed an 8% drop in broadcast network ratings this past year. This year, Magna Global, part of Interpublic Group, predicts broadcast networks’ dollar volume to drop 2%, while cable’s could rise as much as 5%.

The top twenty cable networks’ viewership and attractiveness for advertisers is continuing to climb upward, while the major broadcast networks’ ratings are declining each year as cable networks continue to expand their original programming slates.

Second screen viewing is growing up. The use of online video and social media to couple with traditional viewing is skyrocketing among audiences, especially for young people, over the last two years. Even older viewers are breaking away from only watching traditional TV and are watching more of their content  online. PwC noted that the second quarter of 2012 saw “social TV” activity across Facebook, Twitter and Google almost triple from the year before.

Companies are taking note and spending increased amounts of their advertising dollars on apps like Viggle, GetGlue, and Zeebox to keep up with this trend viewing behavior.

This spring, we are seeing more original programming across more diverse viewing platforms than ever before, and these trends are making a difference in advertising negotiations. Though the upfront is always competitive, the increased viewership of formerly lesser-known cable networks and niche platforms are now not only major players, but big-time game-changers to consider during the industry’s most pivotal time of the year.

What does this mean for you as you decide where to spend your advertising dollars during this year’s upfront season?


Dennis Quinn
Dennis is responsible for the development and execution of Active’s U.S. media strategy, including investment and trading activities. Dennis brings 24 years of experience running cable television and digital businesses to Active. Prior to joining the company in 2010, he was President, Sales and Marketing for Channel M and previously Executive Vice President, Business Development at Turner Broadcasting.

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