Scanzoni: Weak Upfront, Finally Done for GroupM

Media Agency Finishes with Drawn-out NBCU, ABC Negotiations
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The opera's not over till the fat lady sings, and this year's upfront wasn't over until Rino Scanzoni was satisfied.

The chief investment officer of GroupM, for now the largest media buying operation, declared himself essentially done this week after completing negotiations with NBCUniversal and ABC that dragged out weeks longer than has been normal in recent years. "There's some isolated, little things that need some T's crossed and some I's dotted, but I think they were waiting for us," he said.

In years when it's a sellers' market, buyers get stampeded into getting their money down quickly. Usually Scanzoni is in no rush and this year he says patience was a great virtue. He declined to talk about pricing, but said "We're very happy with how it turned out for us."

Scanzoni characterizes this year's upfront market as weak. "If you isolate primetime on the broadcast side, I would say that volume was probably down 5%-6%," he noted. "I don't think you're going to see a very strong scatter marketplace either because I think the price points early on were probably higher than what they should have been."

Scanzoni estimates that cable sales volume was up 2% to 3%. "I think they were expecting probably 5% to 7%," he said. "I'm sure cable will probably build its growth a little bit as we go to scatter." Unlike broadcast networks, which sell 80% to 85% of their commercial inventory in the upfront, cable networks sell about 50%, which means if prices rise in scatter, cable network have a better opportunity to cash in. (Cable sales execs mostly concede the market was weaker than they expected, but insist they did better than whatever the average was.)

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