Viacom Says Upfront Ad Volume Increased

While the upfront was disappointing for most of the TV industry, Viacom confirmed that it did better than most.

“While the market generally was indeed challenging, our media networks outperformed and we grew volume in the low to mid-single digits over last year," said Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, speaking on the company’s third-quarter earnings call with analysts Wednesday.

The company said that price increases on a cost-per-thousand viewers basis were in the low-to-mid single digit range for clients that increased their spending with Viacom. Those that didn’t significantly increase volume paid increases in the high single digit range.

“Our new Viacom Velocity Integrated Marketing unit has driven tremendous business for us this year as it develops more and more custom campaigns and content for advertisers and connects advertisers to our huge social media footprint and wealth of data and insights on our audiences," Dauman said.

Viacom’s Nickelodeon also did well in the kids market.

Nickelodeon Group head of sales Jim Perry said Nick’s volume was up in the low single digits, with prices rising in the high single digit range around the Christmas and Easter holidays and in the mid-single digit range the rest of the year.

“We think the kids market was down slightly, but we did very well. We think we stole some share,” Perry said. Nick’s position was helped because about a third of its inventory was already spoken for in long-term deals with major marketers who have strong partnerships with the kids programmer.

With Time Warner’s Cartoon Network shifting an hour from Cartoon Network to Adult Swim, Nickelodeons share of viewing also went up.

“We obviously had a really great story to tell in terms of the rebound from a ratings perspective and the content pipeline that Russell’s developing,” Perry said. “It’s a really deep pipeline and people saw that and felt that there was a lot of promise to our programming moving forward.”

Nickelodeon has been programming Nick Junior and NickToons more aggressively and Perry says he went to market with packages that included all three networks.

“We wanted them to be able to take advantage and follow the kid audience where it’s going within our ecosystem, he said. “We were very successful selling that way and provided benefits to the advertiser.”

Perry said that digital sales growth was strong ahead of launching the website.

Television advertising growth has slowed this year, and analysts listening to the Viacom call had many questions about the trends in the market.

Dauman said that the lower upfront was mostly about some big advertisers holding back some of their spending and that those dollars would likely find their way into the upfront market.

To the degree advertisers are looking for more digital solutions, he said Viacom is looking to capture those too.

“There are a lot of dollars to capture by making use of data and putting our content out our new platforms and getting monetization. And monetization is, of course, facilitated once you get measurement and that is improving,” he said. “We're getting it on our own apps, because we have the data ourselves. Nielsen is rolling out a new measurement of mobile devices next quarter. That will help. So all the trend lines are such as to favor monetization on other platforms. And we are moving in that direction because our audiences are adopters of these other platforms. Our content is already being viewed by them. We're not getting the full monetization today because of some lag in the measurement and that will catch up over time.”

A lot of the ad world buzz surrounds programmatic buying and selling, but Dauman wasn’t a fan as far as TV is concerned.

“We don't see much appeal for that right now,” he said. “It is useful for certain digital product, what I'd call more commoditized inventory. And what we offer, we provide a unique offering, for which we get high CPMs, of premium inventory, integrated marketing opportunities . . . marrying that with social media. None of that is captured in programmatic buying, which really does not provide the value to advertisers as we're able to provide with our premium video content.”