The announcement by the Sci-Fi Channel that it’s changing it’s name to Syfy was made at its own upfronts on Monday. It was a mini-upfront that they used to announce their business decision.

An upfront is an odd term that relates to networks showing off their lineups for the upcoming season and at this time is one opportunity for advertising companies buy ad time from the networks.

Buying during the upfronts lets the advertisers buy ad time cheaper, hedging their bets, so to speak if they buy now, as opposed to if they wait until mid season to purchase their air time. For example: Anyone who bought ad time on ER before the season is happy, because NBC is now trying to figure out how to recoup the $400k George Clooney is asking, for his few on-screen minutes.

So even though this is the bargain time for ad buying, the advertisers are taking advantage of the economy and are pitching reasons why they’re not looking to spend as much. In other words, advertisers are looking for more flexibility with their terms and options from the networks.

Strangely, it’s felt that cable networks will have more flexibility than the traditional networks because the traditional network stance is they need to secure prices now, or as it was put, “secure price increases.”

Things Look Bleak for Networks

As it stands, many potential clients are doing the unthinkable and cutting costs on their advertising and marketing budgets. The more vulnerable client sectors that need to be really careful are travel, finance and automotive sectors.

So what’s come of this stupid economic market? The sudden realization that, … wait, sit down for this one,

that digital can no longer be thought of as something apart from traditional media.

Wow… I wonder just when they came up with that wisdom?

And that’s the new bargaining chip coming from the clients. They want more exposure digitally.

Why Do Advertisers Want Digital?

Considering that Hulu.com‘s ads have an audience engagement level that’s 50 percent higher than TV, and ad recall is double that of TV spots, that is an eye catcher.

My take on the recall issue is that when you’re pounded with ads on TV over and over and over in an hour, or even three hours, it just becomes noise that we become accustomed to and filter it out. Right guys? Yet if you see an ad once, it stands out from the program and then of course, you remember it… because it didn’t annoy the crap out of you, unlike my newest favorite ad from Comcast, or the thousands of ads for the Saturday night Sci-Fi Channel movie.

This goes hand in hand with some networks preparing for these tough times by freezing or even reducing some actors salaries. Heck, some shows are even in danger of being canceled because of perceived costs incurred by actors wanting pay raises.

Without the payout for advertisers, networks don’t get their money. Without money, we don’t get our shows. It’s ugly, but it’s true!

Source: Media Week, Cinema Static