Originally published: June 17, 2012
Last updated: June 17, 2012 - 2:07pm
Something funny happened on the way to this year's upfront. Advertisers who were expected to demonstrate their love for TV by again committing to spend even more money there wound up distracted by a competing concern: a shaky economy.
The gyrating stock market and disappointing employment figures gave TV's biggest sponsors an urge to keep their money in their pockets, where they knew it would be safe, rather than agreeing to use it on TV-network ad time -- at least for now. Yes, it's true, advertisers committed a staggering amount of wampum to this year's upfront, that annual process through which the big TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the upcoming season. And they agreed to increases in ad rates. But they didn't let their overall dollar commitments surpass those agreed to last year. This year, the five English-speaking broadcast networks won a total of between $8.8 billion and $9.3 billion, depending on whose fuzzy math you use. And while that sounds like a lot, it's about the same amount secured last year by the Big Four-And-A-Half (The CW is too small a revenue generator to make a Big Five). More telling, perhaps, the amounts secured this year fall short -- once again -- of the $9.5 billion attracted by six networks (CW had yet to form from the ashes of WB and UPN) in 2004, re-energizing that old debate, the one about whether marketers will maintain their devotion to the TV set when new technology creates such a dizzying array of new media venues to examine.
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