Volume was up 5% overall and NBC primetime ads went up 7%. CPMs increased between 11% and 13% for broadcast prime and late-night, and NFL telecasts posted a 7% rise, with similar sell-through to 2017 despite headwinds for the league over the past two seasons. Across the rest of sports, news and cable, CPMs rose in the high-single digits.
Telemundo and MSNBC were two key drivers. Propelled by the near-constant breaking news flow, MSNBC has surged in the ratings over the past year and a half. Accordingly, it recorded the best upfront of any network in the portfolio, sources indicated, growing 30% over last year.
Telemundo, which saw strong ratings with broadcasts of this summer’s World Cup, collected $16 million in new business and 3% year-over-year growth. As Univision, the longtime leader in Hispanic broadcasting in the U.S. has stumbled, Telemundo has been able to gain market share.
The upfront gains at NBCU were par for the course as broadcast networks — flanked by cable and digital — offer advertisers some of the few remaining pieces of reliable, communal viewing. Ratings have eroded across the board, but the regular supply of live, or occasionally scripted, programming that compels tune in keeps major brands in the fold. In their pitches to media buyers in the spring, networks emphasized one of the major buzz phrases of 2018: brand safety. In their view, why would blue-chip advertisers want to risk having their messages associated with the free-for-all environments of YouTube or Facebook instead of the more carefully controlled environment of traditional TV?
Digital — an area of strategic investment by NBCU — grew 25% over 2017, with digital video up 30%.
Shows attracting demand from marketing partners, sources said, included This Is Us, The Today Show, new originals like Bravo’s Dirty John, and various red carpet opportunities.
Strong categories included Financial Services, Pharma, Insurance, Studios and Tech.