Turner’s opening asking price for its upfront programming advertising packages for TNT and TBS is about 13 percent higher than last year, and media agencies are balking, industry sources told TheWrap.
While the Turner basic-cable channels are considered to be among the cream of the ad-supported cable networks, media buyers are not even willing to start negotiating with prices that high.
Media agency buyers say they are not willing to pay higher increases for Turner programming than they did for Fox in this upfront, which was about 9 percent, since Fox delivers a larger mass audience than Turner, and also delivers a higher percentage of 18-49 viewers.
The cable television industry as a whole is expected to take in between 15 percent and 20 percent more ad dollars in this upfront compared with last year. However, much of that increase will come from new dollars moving into cable, not from such hefty price increases, sources said.
But Turner’s strategy is no different than what it has been in the past few years, as the cable giant has been trying to compete on the same level, and get parity, with the broadcast networks.
A few years ago, Turner moved its upfront presentation into the same week as the broadcast networks. And each year has tried to start its upfront negotiations among the broadcast networks.
But each year Turner has opened its upfront negotiations asked for cost-per-thousand (CPM) increases that are way too high for media agencies to stomach.
This year, Turner’s TBS is trying to get ad prices for its new 11 p.m. Conan O’Brien late-night show that rival NBC’s "The Tonight Show." The problem is, Conan’s new show on TBS does not have a track record there on which to base ratings guarantees and pricing. That means buyers will want to be more cautious in what they pay and will want lower ratings guarantees.
This past season, when NBC moved "The Jay Leno Show" to 10 p.m., it priced the show relatively cheap and offered low ratings guarantees. When the show was canceled in February, it was not because buyers complained about the low ratings. The show actually was delivering what NBC had guaranteed. "Leno" was canceled because NBC’s TV station affiliates complained that the show was not a strong enough lead-in and bringing enough viewers in at 10 p.m. leading into their local 11 p.m. news telecasts.
Some rival cable network sales executives believe Turner’s posturing reflects badly on all the cable networks because it motivates the media agencies to concentrate on doing deals with the broadcast networks first, before turning to cable.
But time will tell. Using O’Brien as a driver to its ad packages can be effective with those advertisers who are looking for a more younger, targeted audience. But some media agencies might be willing to wait for the scatter market, to see how Conan performs in the ratings, before laying down large amounts of money at hefty prices.