Disney Sets Company Record $9 Billion in Upfront Ad Sales Thanks to Sports and Streaming

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The Walt Disney Company said it notched more commitments from advertisers in TV’s annual “upfront” market than last year, citing Madison Avenue’s interest in both sports and streaming content, echoing a sentiment heard from other TV giants as well.

The owner of ABC and Disney+ said it notched around $9 billion in advance commitments from advertisers across its portfolio, which also includes FX, Hulu, Freeform and National Geographic. During the upfront, U.S. TV companies try to sell the bulk of their advertising inventory in advance of the debut of their next cycle of new programming. Disney secured between $1.66 billion to $2.18 billion last year for ABC’s primetime schedule in 2020, according to Variety estimates, and executives believe they were able to top those figures this year by a narrow amount.

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“Disney Advertising entered our 2022-2023 Upfront committed to executing on our strategic priorities — streaming, multicultural and inclusion, sports and entertainment — and we delivered,” Rita Ferro, president of advertising sales for Disney Media and Entertainment, said in a prepared statement. “This marks a historic close to our strongest Upfront ever, totaling $9 billion. I am proud to partner with all of our clients to reach audiences at scale across all screens, and alongside the most premium content.”

The company said it secured “double-digit increases in sports volume and pricing for the second year in a row that reflect the strength of our rights portfolio, and increased women’s sports offering.” Of total dollars committed, Disney said 40% were earmarked for streaming and digital media, including Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu. The company drew notice this year for announcing that it would launch a new ad-supported tier of Disney+, which has heretofore been ad free. Disney said “all agency partners” made commitments to Disney+, and that demand increased for packages that encompassed both Hulu and traditional TV inventory.

Disney’s robust report is typical of many of the broadcasters’ results this year, with advertisers raising the amount of money they are committing to TV. Some of the dynamic comes as the result of a defensive play. With the threat of a recession looming, most networks are taking a narrower hike in the cost of a CPM, a measure related to the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers that is an integral part of these annual discussions between the networks and Madison Avenue. Most networks agreed to CPM hikes of between 8% and 12%, according to people familiar with the discussions. In 2021, some networks sought CPM increases of 20% or more.

Disney said it pressed for double-digit percentage CPM increases for primetime programming and single-digit percentage increases for addressable inventory.

Among the ad categories taking part in notable fashion were consumer products, financial services, media and entertainment, pharmaceutical, sports gaming, and travel and leisure.

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