The first TV upfronts debuted in 1962 against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis, the UK release of “Love Me Do,” and the opening season of the awful-yet-lovable New York Mets. Ad space was sold via paper and handshakes, and a single currency measured all. Now, the upfronts are shedding their “Mad Men” roots and morphing into something different—more digital, more fragmented, less predictable, and no longer transacted or measured against a single currency. And, in a reminder of how the pandemic upended the upfronts in 2020, this year’s event has been rocked by a writers strike, the cancellation of at least one major event, and high-level executive shake-ups. Ahead, we look at the state of play at the 2023 upfronts, including our latest forecast for US upfront ad spending and how a shift toward digital video, especially connected TV (CTV), is transforming this time-honored tradition.
KEY STAT: US upfront TV ad spending will fall during the 2023–2024 season on a YoY basis and relative to our previous forecast, as the industry continues to veer toward digital programming.
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