A year and a half ago, the TV industry was talking about the end of the upfront, that annual season of pitches made by networks to ad buyers for year-ahead business.
The new pandemic had startled brands, causing many to press the pause button on ad spending – particularly upfront ad buys.
Fast-forward, however, and Michael Falco doesn’t think the upfronts are dying. In this video interview with Beet.TV, the chief revenue officer at Fox Corporation says they have learned new tricks – and Fox has seen an “influx” of buyers back to upfront sales over the last year.
Falco offers two reasons why:
1. Evolution, not revolution
“There’s still the need for a futures market,” he says. “In reality, what the last year and a half taught us was not that we needed to get away from the upfront, but that the upfront needed to evolve.”
2. Upfronts for streaming
“This notion that the upfront is just a linear television event is completely, completely wrong,” Falco argues. “Case in point for Tubi – we nearly tripled our revenue year-over-year in the upfront for TV, and we almost doubled our clients year to year.”
Falco isn’t ignorant of the effect the pandemic did have on upfront ad sales.
He says Fox had to figure out how to present its programming and ad products at a time when most potential customers would have been gathering in New York to hear its pitch.
But ad buyers, he says, fell into three camps:
- Those which had to bail on upfront commitments.
- Those which had products useful during a pandemic, which continued.
- Those which flexibly stepped back with a view to later going after targeted media.
Tubi lights the way
Fox acquired Tubi, an ad-supported streaming TV service, for $440 million just as the pandemic panic was kicking off in early 2020.
Having Tubi in the stable has enabled Fox to make the kind of offering that ad buyers – during the pandemic or otherwise – were gravitating toward, namely choice, flexibility and audience targeting.
Tubi made more than $100 in ad revenue in the last quarter, more than $400 million over the year, according to its latest filing.
Falco says data-driven TV ad targeting is key. Fox has wrapped together its offerings under banners called “One Fox” and “Fox Next“.
“It’s going to allow us to move into that more audience-based selling, which I think is something that we’ve been looking forward to for quite some time,” Falco adds.
“Now that we have Tubi in the fold, it’s really going to give us the wherewithal to do that.”