CBS Posts Strong Upfront Ad Sales Gains, Especially In Primetime And Late Night

Stephen Colbert CBS
John P. Filo/CBS

CBS has completed its upfront advertising sales, according to a person familiar with the discussions, posting CPM gains of 14% to 16% in primetime and volume gains of 20% in late night.

On the strength of continuing tune-in for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Late Late Show with James Corden, CPMs in late night showed increases in the mid- to high-teens, the source added.

In primetime, the volume gains were in the range of 5% to 6%.

CBS has been the total-viewing leader for 11 seasons in a row, averaging 8.9 million for the season. Even as linear viewing continues to erode and the pay-TV bundle frays, advertisers are still showing interest in the beachfront property controlled by CBS. While sitcom juggernaut The Big Bang Theory ended its run in May, the 2019-20 lineup appears solid. Entertainment president Kelly Kahl told reporters at the network’s upfront press breakfast in May that the goal is to be “stable but not sleepy, aggressive but not reckless.”

This upfront is the first one overseen by acting CEO Joe Ianniello, who stepped in after former chief Les Moonves was ousted from the company last September.

Across other dayparts, CPM gains were in the single digits, with sports and news in the mid-single-digit range, the source noted. NFL upfront sales are ahead of 2018-19 levels. Category-wise across the network, direct-to-consumer registered an uptick, as did insurance, financial, pharmaceuticals and wireless.

CBS Digital is tracking toward overall dollar volume growth and “significant” increases versus 2018 levels, the insider averred.

The TV upfront market — a minority but symbolically important piece of the roughly $75 billion total annual TV ad pie — has become much more complex. Reasons for that include the array of other options for advertisers and looming questions about the future of live viewing and traditional ad loads. Perhaps as a result, a month after the networks’ annual blitz of presentations for media buyers in New York, only CBS and the CW have reported their progress to this point.

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