NBCU Upfront Volume Up 5%; NBC Prime up 7%

NBCUniversal racked up a strong upfront, with a 5% increase in volume compared to last year.

“Underscoring the importance and value of all this great content to advertisers, we just completed another outstanding upfront, with high single digit pricing gains, coupled with 5% growth in volume commitments,” said Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, NBCU’s parent company, during Comcast’s earnings call Thursday.

Under ad sales chair Linda Yaccarino, NBC Broadcast prime had 7% volume growth and, on cable, MSNBC had its best year ever with a 30% gain, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Read More: Upfront Central

In pricing, NBC broadcast prime and late night saw rates on a cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) basis increase between 11% and 13%.

For the NFL, pricing rose 7%.

Cable networks rang up high single digit CPM increases.

Digital sales were up 25% from a year ago, with digital video up 30%.

“We’re pretty confident that we’re leading the market, particularly on the NBC side,” said NBCU CEO Steve Burke on the earnings call. “There may be some cable channels that have higher growth rates than some of our cable channels, but in general I’m pretty confident that we led the market."

NBCU was able to use its new currency CFlight, which attempts to measure viewing on all screens, with buyers and it sold out its shortened Prime Pods, which will air in high-profile shows such as This is Us and The Voice.

Asked about the strength of digital advertising, Burke defended the effectiveness of TV advertising.

"It’s hard to say how much of marketers budgets are going to digital but the television market remains very, very strong. And I think some of the strength is because if you’re trying to change a buyers opinion, there’s nothing better than a TV spot," he said. "There has been nothing created on the internet that is as compelling in terms of changing a person’s mind about a brand as a television spot in a great show watched by millions and millions of people."

Burke said that NBCU has about 20% of the ratings points in the U.S. market. 

"The breadth of that offering is allowing Linda Yaccarino and our sales team to go to market and provide integrated solutions for advertisers across all of those networks, and also across all of our digital properties and all of the other digital properties that Linda’s selling," he said, noting that NBCU has ad sales deals with Apple and AOL, Buzzfeed and Vox

"So that combination we think is proving to be very valuable despite the fact that obviously people like Google and Facebook are achieving gigantic ad sales," Burke said.

On the call Burke was also asked about the company’s direct-to-consumer strategy.

“I think there’s a feeling right now that everybody is completely focused on Netflix. The vast majority of television viewing is not streaming. The vast majority of television viewing continues to be linear television particularly for big event,” Burke said.

“Our future I think is selling wherever consumers are. If they’re watching linear, if they’re watching streaming, if they’re watching on any different kind of platform, cable or broadcast,” he said. “So we’re trying to position our company to make sure that all those avenues are open and that we intelligently look at those avenues and maximize the profitability of our video business. To me that’s the kind of strategy that leads to a successful company and that’s the path that we’re on.”

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.