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Disney Ad Sales Closes 2021-22 Upfront With Double-Digit Rate Gains

·2-min read

Disney’s ad sales group said it has closed its 2021-22 upfront, with double-digit increases in CPMs and revenue thanks to powerful interest in live sports.

The rate gains spanned all broadcast day parts, cable and all major sports, including college football, NFL and the NBA. Disney said more than 40% of total upfront dollars committed this year went to streaming and digital outlets. While streaming flagship Disney+ is an ad-free, consumer offering, Hulu and ESPN+ do have ads. Hulu’s ad revenue is forecast to reach $3 billion this year, which is in the same range as the company’s linear networks. CEO Bob Chapek has referred to Hulu advertising as a “secret weapon” for Disney.

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Chapek was not asked directly about the upfront during a virtual appearance at a Credit Suisse investor conference. But he did field a question that has come up frequently in recent years about the outlook for ESPN, which remains highly profitable but is in secular decline with its traditional pay-TV subscriber base. “We’re committed to sports because we value live sports, which drives viewers and interest like nothing else,” he said.

Overall revenue posted double-digit increases across broadcast, cable and all major sports. Disney said strong categories in the upfront included consumer packaged goods, financial services, media & entertainment, pharmaceutical, retail, technology and telecom, and travel & leisure.

Earlier today, NBCUniversal also announced it had completed its upfront, with CEO Jeff Shell saying it was probably the strongest in company history. Fox Corp. CFO Steve Tomsic said the company was close but not done, but said the ad sales team indicated demand was more robust than it has been in decades.

After being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Disney and other companies have seen a major revival in ad revenue.

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