At a time when TV viewers have more power than ever to skip past commercials, Madison Avenue is acting like it’s the heyday of the Pillsbury Doughboy, Toucan Sam and Mr. Whipple.
TV ads, those 30-second sales pitches that prognosticators like to say are on the way out and about which consumers complain incessantly, are suddenly popular again – at least among the people who buy them. How else to explain why big advertisers, with a dizzying array of new ways to reach customers with social media and digital video before them, keep raising the amount of money they intend to spend on primetime TV?
To be sure, TV ratings continue to erode. But the nation’s five English-language broadcast networks prevailed against disruptive trends brought on by new streaming-video technology and managed to snare a gain of between 5.5% and 7.4% in the volume of advance advertising commitments they secured for their next cycle of primetime programming, according to Variety estimates, part of the annual haggling of TV’s “upfront” ad-sales marketplace. The networks secured between $9.6 billion and $10.8 billion for primetime, according to Variety estimates, compared with $9.1 billion and $10.06 billion in last year’s haggle. It is the fourth consecutive year that the networks have seen increasing volume for their primetime schedules.
The numbers are little more than fuzzy math and rarely have any correlation to the ad money big media owners like CBS, Walt Disney, NBCUniversal, Fox Corporation and WarnerMedia collect by the end of the year. But they do lend ballast to the notion that, despite a frenzy of calls predicting Big TV’s rapid demise, advertisers do not share that view.
“This year’s advertising upfront was one of the strongest we have seen in many years,” said Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman and CEO of Fox Corporation, during a call with investors on Wednesday.