A Digital Scatter Market Emerges From TV Upfront

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With the pageantry of the TV upfront presentations over, negotiations for the fall season’s ad dollars are well underway. While online media has received its share of attention during those talks in recent years as buyers and sellers discussed multi-platform packages, it appears that interactive has acquired a greater degree of cachet. Mediaweek reports that while online components of TV shows are helping boost the value of network programming during the upfront, as much as $150 million may be held back for those digital extensions to appear in the fall in what could be called “the digital scatter market.”

Scatter, which generally refers to purchasing unsold ads closer to airtime as opposed to the upfront market months before, is somewhat redundant when applied to digital, since it doesn’t have a “season” for unveiling new products. But it does highlight the importance networks are placing on digital media and their attempts to create defined online programming schedules. As for the amount being held back, to put things in perspective, the upfront market overall is roughly $9 billion, so these initiatives remain more academic, as opposed to representing a significant shift in spending.

Still, networks and media buyers are paying attention. Marc Goldstein, CEO of WPP Group media agency GroupM USA: “Just because an advertiser spends less in the upfront doesn’t mean they are pulling money out of television. If some advertisers are spending less in the upfront this year, it might be because they are holding back dollars for online or other opportunities that might come up at a later date.” To make sure those online opportunities arise, NBC has its NBC 2.0, CBS its Interactive Audience Network, and even if they haven’t assigned a title to its online initiatives, pretty much every network has aligned a digital component to its respective prime-time lineups. While NBC’s and CBS’ initiatives are fairly new, Fox plans to make the most of its relationship to MySpace.

It’s not a drastic change. Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer for GroupM: “With all the integrations and online components, it just takes longer to do deals. And no one feels we will lose an opportunity if we take our time.”

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