ABC Holds Out for Higher Pricing in Upfront Negotiations

Network insider tells TheWrap that numbers unlikely to be finalized anytime soon

CBS, Fox and the CW’s upfront ad sales season are essentially complete, leaving ABC and NBC still in active negotiations — but don’t expect the Disney-owned broadcast channel to close its book of business anytime soon.

For ABC, the process has been a slow slog, as the network is holding out for stronger pricing than its apparently gotten across-the-board, a network insider told TheWrap. After all, ABC’s ratings have risen year-over-year, as Shondaland Thursdays have become a game-changer towards the week’s-end.

In the advertiser-sought 18-49 demographic, ABC’s traditional fall season was up five percent year-over-year, with a 2.2 versus 2013-2014’s 2.1, according to Nielsen’s most current ratings, which include seven day delayed viewing shifts. In total viewers, the American Broadcasting Company is up six percent, rising from 7.645 million to 8.089 million.

With a strong NBA Finals right in the middle of upfront negotiations, ABC likely feels empowered. Thus far, its summer season is up 13 percent in the demo and 12 percent in total viewers versus last year’s.

Even if its not a matter of boldness, as the only Big 4 broadcast net without NFL football, perhaps ABC is simply striking while the iron is hot. It’s unclear when ABC will consider its upfront ad sales basically done, but it doesn’t sound like it will be anytime in the immediate future.

Speaking of positions of strength, CBS more-or-less finished its negotiations on Monday, claiming the most ad dollars and highest pricing, per its own research. That said, in the end, ABC may slightly top CBS in year-over-year percentage increases from upfront sales — a final tally that remains to be seen. Even if that happens, it may be more a testament to CBS’ strong baseline numbers from 2014 than anything else.

Meanwhile, fourth-place Fox Broadcasting Channel closed its upfront period on Tuesday, finishing down in both pricing and revenue year-over-year. The broader Fox Networks Group had better news when counting cable.

CW was the first English-language broadcast net to close upfront ad sales. On Friday, CW reported an increase of 12-15 percent in total volume of ad sales and overall ad dollars from 2014.This year, they also saw an approximately four percent increase in CPM, or the unit price of reaching 1,000 people. The company’s volume had hovered at approximately $400 million for the last few years.