As enjoyable as it was to see William Shatner ham it up with Jim Parsons, clips from NBC’s new thriller The Event, or the cast of Glee tear the proverbial roof off of the equally proverbial joint, the just wrapped upfront week really had nothing to do with feeding our pop-culture obsession. No, as the giant dollar sign posters outside of the Adult Swim bash at Gotham Hall Wednesday hinted, this week was all about money. As in, how much dough advertisers are going to spend on these new shows.
The good news for the networks, both broadcast and cable, is that all signs point to an uptick in the advertising marketplace following a couple of very down years. As much as $9 billion could be spent this year on advance ad sales, with networks charging 8 to 10 percent more for ads, according to various estimates.
Of course, just how much advertisers will spend depends on how negotiations with networks go. While most predictions are that this year’s market will move quickly, Alan Cohen, CEO of ad-buying giant OMD, responded somewhat cautiously when we asked him if the TV ad market was poised for a big uptick. “I don’t think of it as a rebound,” he told us via e-mail. “But you could say that there is more enthusiasm this year as we gradually try to put the recession behind us.”
So what do advertisers think of what the networks served up this week? While most are hesitant to say too much before they’ve seen full pilots of the new shows, programming analyst Bill Carroll — who works for ad buyer KTVG — told us via e-mail that he’s found at least one show on each network to get psyched about. Carroll gave an early thumbs up to Undercovers (NBC), Ride-Along (Fox), No Ordinary Family (ABC), Hawaii Five-O (CBS), and Nikita (CW).
Another veteran analyst who also advises ad buyers, Steve Sternberg, seemed particularly impressed with NBC’s offerings. No, really, he did. “Perhaps driven by my low expectations, I liked what I saw,” Sternberg wrote on his programming blog. “Every drama looked compelling, and every comedy clip was funny. While I haven’t seen any full pilots yet, I can’t remember too many instances where everything looked this good. The mid-season series looked every bit as good as the fall shows.” (Others worry that NBC — and ABC, for that matter — could have trouble launching too many new shows next season.)
CBS also made some big schedule changes — like moving The Big Bang Theory to Thursdays — but the analysts think the Eye’s moves made sense. Sternberg called the changes “quite logical and safe,” while Carroll said the network “made the best use of existing hits and franchise shows” and predicted Big Bang on Thursdays could “bring the biggest dividends.”