Cable Upfront Disappointing

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The numbers are finally tallied, and they support what the industry feared: This year’s cable upfront was disappointing.

The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau issued its figures, which put this year’s cable upfront market at just over $6.5 billion, a 5% increase, or $300 million more than $6.2 billion a year ago.

Those tallies were “based on deep input from a full range of our network members,” CAB CEO Sean Cunningham said in a prepared statement.

This year’s cable-upfront total and increase were much softer than industry experts and Wall Street had originally projected. Some initial prognostications called for cable to hit $7 billion or more in this year’s upfront by registering increases in the 10% range.

The final cable-upfront estimates from Jack Myers, editor of Jack Myers Media Business Report, were roughly in the same ballpark as the CAB’s. Myers pegged this year’s cable upfront at about $6.65 billion, up 4%, or $250 million, from last year’s $6.4 billion.

Last year, the cable upfront registered gains of 17%-20%, according to figures from Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. analyst Jessica Reif Cohen.

Myers believes programmers such as Turner Broadcasting System Inc. -- which fared better in terms of both price and dollar-volume increases -- probably pulled up the numbers for the whole cable industry.

He estimated that cable’s CPM increases this upfront averaged in the 1%-3% range.

The broadcast upfront fared worse than cable, in that it was actually down 2.5%-4% this year from last year’s $9.825 billion, according to Myers.

The upfront-ad dollars that broadcast lost went to video alternatives such as the Internet, cinema advertising, in-store television, mobile advertising and digital-video-recorder and video-on-demand advertising, according to Myers.

For more on the cable upfront, please see Linda Moss’ story on page four of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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