Cable Upfront Volume Grew 4% To Top $10B

Cable networks registered 4.3% more business in the upfront advertising market for the 2013-14 season.

Sales volume rose to $10.2 billion, surpassing the $10 billion mark for the first time, according to figures compiled by the Cablevision Advertising Bureau. By contrast, buyers estimate that upfront sales by the national broadcast networks were down slightly at less than $9 billion.

Last year, cable upfront ad sales rose 5% to $9.8 billion. That followed two year of huge grow, with a 16% gain in the 2011-12 upfront and a 19% jump in the 2010-11 upfront. That amounts to a $53% gain over four years.

The CAB said there were several reasons for cable's gains, including more multi-platform deals than ever. Among them are  "our record-breaking original programs, our role as dominant content over five screens including social TV, and the incredibly high amount of consumer hours spent monthly with ad-supported Cable Brands - some 94 hours-per- month on TV and the Internet combined" CAB President and CEO Sean Cunningham said in a statement.

During earnings calls for the April-June quarter, the top executives of most of the major cable programmers indicated they were pleased with the upfront, despite the new figures showing growth slowing from last year.

"For the adult upfront market, we secured mid-single-digit volume growth by moving early while also improving our mix of advertisers," boasted Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. "We saw a great outcome on the kids side, too, where we maintained volume and increased our share in a market that was down overall."

"We were able to negotiate mid to high single-digit price increases, while generating the highest dollar volume in our history," Discovery CEO David Zaslav told analysts.

Scripps Networks Interactive CEO Ken Lowe told analysts "we're poised for continued growth, completing another peer-leading advertising upfront this summer with high-single-digit CPM increases and, for the second consecutive year, booking more than $1 billion in business."

"We just completed negotiations for the 2013 to '14 upfront and our portfolio of entertainment-oriented networks, TBS, TNT, truTV and Adult Swim, obtained CPM increases in the high single-digits," said Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. "Once again, that was at the high-end of the range for all TV networks, broadcast and cable."

AMC CEO Josh Sapan noted that his company had gone into the upfront with four ad-supported networks for the first time.  He said the market was healthy and that "we saw significant demand for our scripted series, and we're able to attract new, quality advertisers to our shows. We further diversified our ad revenue base. We added volume, and importantly, we increased price."

The Hallmark Networks were able to complete their negotiations relatively early in the upfront, Crown Media CEO Bill Abbott told analysts. ".A demand for family-friendly programming bolstered by our recent entry into the original scripted primetime series business, gave us a strong position in the marketplace, resulting in double-digit revenue growth in volume for both Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel. Our CPM growth was at or above the overall cable marketplace, growing by mid- to high-single digits," he said.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.