More network upfront clarification spin

Joe Mandese and David Kaplan examine the network upfront market for MediaDailyNews and come to a startling (not!) conclusion: the upfront is “up,” because the networks say it is:

If this seems like a lot of mixed signals, it likely because all of the sales claims are just that: claims. And that even in the post-Sarbanes Oxley world of corporate financial governance there is no requirement for CEOs of CFOs to certify their upfront sales claims. That’s because the upfront is not necessarily an indicator of actual revenue, cash flow, or shareholder equity. They’re only an indication of what advertisers have “committed” to spend. Actual sales can fluctuate dramatically based on how well upfront deals “firm up” once they go to “hold,” how marketers exercise so-called cancellation options during the actual TV season, how well the networks’ scatter market sales perform for their remaining ad inventory, and how much of that inventory they have to use for so-called “audience deficiency units” if their shows do not meet their ratings guarantees.
The mixed signals to which they refer are that while the networks are painting their rosiest possible picture, media stock analysts are saying “not really.” And so it goes.

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