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TV upfronts still matter to broadcasters and advertisers.

The Future of Upfronts in an Increasingly Digital World

March 2nd, 2016   ||    by Callie Wheeler

Anyone familiar with TV advertising is sure to start listening at the mention of “upfronts.” Broadcasters and advertisers have relied on the process as an integral part of their business for years. But in the face of changes across the industry, what does the future look like?

Business as Usual

Upfronts have given broadcasters an opportunity to show off their proven and new content, enticing advertisers to purchase inventory ahead of a new year of TV. Networks do their best to tailor content to specific audience segments, tying some shows to the coveted 18-to-34 demographic, while pairing live sport events with large male audiences. Meanwhile, advertisers and their agencies are doing the same thing—using past success, ratings, and finger-crossing to pick the best inventory for their own needs.

A clear winner in last year’s season was network CW, as AdAge reported. The network handily tied its shows like “Jane the Virgin” to a young audience and won more than 30 new advertisers for the 2015–2016 year.

Shift to Data-Driven Buys and Digital

As programmatic buying becomes more common and television advertising dollars are allocated to digital media, the future of traditional television inventory purchases can seem uncertain.

Programmatic buying offers advertisers more control over their message delivery, by breaking up buys across audiences, rather than limiting advertisers to a single daypart or specific programming. Programmatic buying also aids broadcasters, as what may have been considered remnant inventory is suddenly desirable. In these instances, traditional buying and its ties to upfronts are irrelevant.

A further challenge arrives as advertisers are shifting dollars from TV to digital, as AdAge reported during 2015’s upfronts. With less money to invest during the typical purchasing season, the future of traditional inventory purchasing seems uncertain.

Continued Relevance

As grim as the outlook may seem, experts aren’t predicting the death of upfronts yet. As the market sees an increase in automated buying and some networks offer ROI guarantees for traditional TV and digital packages, there is still value in the decades old season.

Videology’s Scott Ferber pointed out in a recent MediaPost article, certainty is still desirable for advertisers. At the moment automated buying isn’t the best fit for premium TV, and for advertisers who want to broadcast time-sensitive ads to large audiences, the certainty traditional buying provides is a necessity.

Though the television advertising landscape continues to grow and change, upfronts are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

To learn more about programmatic TV and automated buying, contact Videa today.

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