2011 Upfronts: Can Cable Top $10 Billion Mark In 2012?

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Following a strong upfront market in which cable captured as many ad dollars as the major broadcast networks, one senior sales executive thinks cable can do even better next year.

"I really believe that next year's upfront marketplace for cable will exceed $10 billion," says David Cassaro, president for ad sales at NBCU Cable.

The upfront marketplace is nearly wrapped up. Broadcast networks took in about $9.1 billion in advertising commitments for next year's primetime shows, with prices on a cost-per-thousand viewers basis up from 9% to 15%.

Volume on the cable networks has been estimated to be about $9.4 billion, catching up to broadcast and passing it for the first time. Some sellers reported volume up as much as 25%. Prices vary from network to network depending on their ratings strength and volume of original programming, but increase ranged from about 8% to the mid to high teens.

While some analysts have noted that networks sold additional commercial inventory during the upfront to lock in pricing and revenue before the economy gets worse, Cassaro thinks the market will remain strong, despite short term concerns about consumer confidence, gas prices, unemployment and the effects of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan

Advertisers are turning to cable because the offer better value than other television options and because they are investing in the kind of original programming sponsors love.

Cassaro notes that while marketing and advertising are easy to cut when profits are under pressure. "But when profits are up and you're looking to expand your business, you're going to spend more money in advertising," he says. "And guess what the first stop in advertising and marketing is? Right. Television. And guess what the best value in television is? National cable."

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