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May 15, 2021

Just How Different Will The Upfront Be This Year? 

There’s been a lot of buzz in the trades about how the upfront will be different this year, due to both the impact of COVID and competition in the form of the “Video Upfront.” While we think that video will continue to make inroads against traditional, linear TV, it's probably too late for anything big to happen in the upcoming upfront. Why? Because the brands at the 400-500 largest national TV advertisers have already specified what their "linear TV" GRP requirements are for the next season—by quarter, by network type and by daypart—and most of their national TV ad dollars will be pooled into massive corporate "linear TV" buys, which will amount to about 70% of the overall total ad spend. This means that, once again, CTV and AVOD are left to individual brands that are free of the corporate buying mandate, although later there will be some scatter buying action. But this is hardly a massive shift of "linear TV" ad dollars to CTV and AVOD.

The fact is the "linear TV" buying system is well established and the large TV brands are used to the system. With few exceptions, that is not the case with CTV and AVOD. How many of the thousands of national brands at the 400-500 large companies were even given GRP/CPP modules for CTV and AVOD when they supplied their requirements for the next season? Probably not that many.

Inventory and pricing are also stumbling blocks. Where are most of the available ad GRPs to be found? Mostly on linear TV. If only 4% of "premium" GRPs are available via CTV/AVOD, isn't it ridiculous for the sellers to be supposedly pushing for a 20-30% national TV ad dollar shift in that direction, unless their CPM demands are ten times the "linear" average? It’s just posturing. And while the buyers claim that placing their clients' commercials in CTV/AVOD's low ad clutter breaks is good for advertisers, it's pretty clear that the sellers have failed to provide convincing evidence that this pays out in ROI not only to the buyers but, far more important, to the media planners and to the advertiser CMOs and brand managers. And since buyers continue to seem fixated on CPMs—even for CTV/AVOD—they need to be sold on why paying a much higher CPM (or CPP) to be on CTV/AVOD is worthwhile.

CTV and AVOD have much to offer, but if they continue to wait for the time buyers to sell their form of TV to the media planners and especially the client CMOs and brand managers, the results will fail to live up to the hype. Realistically, now is the time to start selling for the 2022-23 upfront, to acclimate more of the national brands that they hope to convert.

What Are The Most Popular News Sites (and Does It Matter)?

YouGov’s first quarter 2021 rankings for the most popular news sites show that Yahoo! is the most popular news site, with 54% of respondents having a favorable opinion of it. Two of the broadcast networks also made the list, as did the Washington Post, which has benefitted from heightened visibility following its 2013 purchase by Jeff Bezos (see below). Interestingly, “fame” (the % of people who are aware of the site) did not correlate with popularity; Fox News ranked 4th in terms of fame but ranked 16th in popularity with a score of 37%. 


Surprisingly, the findings were fairly consistent when it comes to rankings by age group. Among Millennials, Buzzfeed came out on top, but the site also made the top 10 for Gen X. And among Baby Boomers, the outlier was NPR, which failed to make the cut among the younger age groups.


In a sense, many of the news sites on the list could be considered “neutral” or at least less polarizing in their approach, which is perhaps why sites like Yahoo! and Buzzfeed topped the charts. “Popularity” is a relative term, however, and many of the sites that made the top 10 failed to reach scores of 50% or more. So, does having a favorable opinion about a site even matter? Probably not, as long as the site continues to pull in—and hold onto—its core audience. But if an advertiser is concerned—as most are—with avoiding controversy, it is a factor worth considering.


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