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TV Networks Haul in $9 Billion at Upfronts

249909538_d514f995b2_m.jpgWhen I die and get reborn, I want to come back as a television network. Despite some skepticism (including from me) that the upfronts this year might find ad dollars declining this year, it turns out to be another record year for the Big Four, as they pulled in a cumulative $9 billion in ad buys.

This despite a year which saw a writer's strike send ratings plummeting, even the mighty American Idol stumbling in numbers, and with a recession causing everyone to start to watch their wallets a bit closer. It was also despite an upfronts week that was decidedly more low key than the lavish affairs of weeks past. Why? The AdWeek article posits two options:

"When national advertisers looked at their media plans to determine what worked most effectively, the bottom line was that it is television, particularly broadcast television," said one media buyer, who like all sources reached for this story, did not want to speak for attribution. "Despite all the gloom-and-doom predictions by certain Wall Street analysts, the upfront money for broadcast showed up. And there was enough money that each of the networks was able to get significant price increases."

Another reason the broadcast networks could have had an advantage, one network sales executive suggested, is that the size or "clout" of several media agencies actually might have worked against them. "There are now only a handful of super-sized agencies that have to get money placed on each network for hundreds of clients," the network sales exec said. "While the agency can use clout and threaten to walk away rather than paying what it believes to be price increases that are too high, the network can also refuse to do a deal, and make the agency's many clients unhappy. Too much clout can actually hamper an agency's ability to dictate terms."

So yet another year that sees networks jacking up their ad rates (fourth-place NBC was the kindest with only a five percent bump, all the others went up around 10 percent). I'm always surprised, but then I forget sometimes how much my media consumption -- a steady diet of RSS feeds, BitTorrent video, and the occasional jaunt through something on DVR -- is an outlier, and not the average.

Picture courtesy Flickr user alfaltendorf, CC 2.0

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