Cable's Killer Upfront Shows TV's Muscle

This year's upfront was huge, especially for cable.

The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau surveyed its members and found that advertising sales volume during the upfront soared 19% to a record $8 billion.

The CAB says that's about the same amount as the national broadcasters took in, although some other reports have put the broadcast total as high as $9 billion.

Sean Cunningham, President/CEO of CAB, says the totals indicate that advertisers believe in television, even in a multi-screen world.

"When there is more scrutiny on marketing and ad dollars than ever before in an incredibly tough economic climate, the fact that we not only did not take a step backwards in terms of how people used us, but we got an enormous surge of spending, says to me that the agencies and advertiser get it, that TV if anything is more powerful than ever before."

Cunningham added that of the 3,000 advertisers who buy national cable, 1,000 don't participate in the upfront. That sets the stage for continued strength in the scatter market.

As advertisers were making their commitments for next season, they were also beefing up TV spending for 2010, although not yet to pre-recession levels, according to figures from Kantar Media. Total TV spending was up 10%, with network TV up 7.2% (including the Olympics), cable up 8.8%, spot TV up 25.1%, Spanish language TV up 14.6% and syndication down 11.7%.

Jon Swallen, senior VP, Research at Kantar Media, said while the economy as a whole appears weak, early data for the third quarter indicates the growth in TV advertising seen in the first half is continuing.

"Marketers have locked in their marketing plans for the remainder of the year and will stay the course for the last few months, Swallen concludes. "The big question mark is what happens when the calendar turns to 2011 if there hasn't been a significant improvement in consumer activity. Will marketers continue to invest at the levels that they have been or will they begin to pull back?"

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.