Lifetime Cruising Through Upfront

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Upfront momentum is continuing for Lifetime Television, which, after striking a major deal with GroupM Tuesday, expects to have closed on 70% of its action in the annual Madison Avenue bazaar by the end of business Wednesday.

John Matluck, senior vice president of advertising sales, and Rick Basso, senior VP of pricing and planning, said Lifetime’s strong commercial-retention marks, the record-setting performance of new series Army Wives and the potential of its upcoming slate, including Side Order of Life and State of Mind, has pushed the women’s-targeted programmer to the forefront of cable’s upfront. The executives said most of Lifetime’s deals were inked in the high-single-digit CPM (cost per thousand homes) range.

Basso said Lifetime scores very well relative to audience-retention rates through commercials, indexing at 96% in a recent MAGNA Global analysis. That played well for Lifetime with agencies using C3 -- the metric comprising average commercial ratings plus three days of digital-video-recorder playback guarantees -- as the major currency for this year’s upfront negotiations.

The programmer’s GroupM pact -- which industry sources placed in the $70 million range across various dayparts on Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network, as well as Lifetimetv.com and other platforms -- was reached using that metric.

Two weeks ago, the giant media shop kicked off the upfront when it concluded a far-reaching deal estimated at some $800 million with NBC Universal, based on C3, that encompassed NBC, as well as sister cable services USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Bravo.

The executives also noted that categories that have made major marks on this year’s upfront -- packaged goods, prescription drugs and retail -- are sectors that have traditionally been drawn to Lifetime’s lineup. And the network has also seen substantial business with the movie industry, they said.

The strength of the market and the confluence of those factors accelerated Lifetime’s position in the upfront. Last year, the executives said, the programmer languished with the slow-moving market and didn’t close most of its deal until around the Fourth of July.

On the digital front, Basso said Lifetime has already finished a number of deals. “We’re 30% over where we were last year,” he added.

Matluck noted that such pacts take longer to execute, with opportunities arising much closer to presentation date. “They come up all the time. It’s something you continue to work on throughout the year,” he said.

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