Paramount Global Sees Upfront Volume Rise for CBS Primetime

·3-min read

The hottest place to be in TV may not be traditional television, but Paramount Global was able to make the medium seem pretty cool.

Despite a shaky economy and heightened interest in streaming video, Paramount Global expects to generate more advertising dollars for the CBS primetime schedule than it did last year.  The company has largely completed its upfront sales negotiations, according to a person familiar with the matter, and is expecting to see advance advertising commitments rise by at least 10%, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company also expects advance ad commitments to  rise for digital venues like Pluto and Paramount Plus.

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In 2021, CBS may have seen its primetime commitments total between $2.03 billion and $2.64 billion, according to Variety estimates, compared with $2.03 billion and $2.51 billion in 2020. If volume were to rise at least 10%, it’s possible that CBS could have secured between $2.23 billion and $2.9 billion for the CBS primetime schedule for the 2022-23 season.

The nation’s big TV networks are trying to lock in ad deals for their next programming season as Madison Avenue keeps its eye on a slumping stock market and worries about the prospect of a recession. NBCUniversal earlier this week said its upfront volume was “comparable” to what it secured next year, while the CW recently wrapped its upfront sales with gains in digital but primetime volume that was flat with 2021. U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial time for their next programming cycle as part of this annual market.

With the economy worrying Madison Avenue, the networks have not pressed too hard for the massive increases in CPMs, or the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, that they sought last year. Paramount Global sought CPM increases of between 8% and 9%, according to people familiar with recent discussions, for both broadcast and cable inventory. Last year, with advertisers eager to spend following the shutdown required by the coronavirus pandemic, the networks pushed for CPM rates of between 16% and 22%

Paramount’s CPM strategy was key to its volume haul, this person says. The company tried to tuck just underneath the increases sought by its main rivals, in a bid to drive more commitments for its programming. CBS boasts some of TV’s most-watched programs, including “NCIS,” “FBI,” “Blue Bloods,” “The Equalizer” and “Young Sheldon,” and media agencies saw an opportunity to nab big audiences for their advertising clients without having to capitulate to higher CPM increases elsewhere. The company was also able to use the success of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” to drive ad deals, and saw volume rise in every daypart.

In recent remarks, Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish said the company had noticed  “some of our competition doing some things, that were probably too aggressive on the linear pricing side because we’ve seen agencies add digital volume as the upfronts gone up. So, I’m very happy with that… We’re pleased with the outcome. And I think you will see us do very well on share coming out of this.”


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