NEW YORK (Reuters) - While advertisers have noticeably reduced advanced spending on TV spots this year, media companies have trained the spotlight on sports and other live programming to draw ad dollars, a top executive from French advertising group Publicis said.
"The emphasis on sports and live programming is the highest I have ever seen it," Laura Desmond, the global chief executive of Publicis' media arm, Starcom MediaVest Group, told Reuters in an interview.
Desmond spoke with Reuters on Monday as Advertising Week kicked off in New York, where the future of TV advertising has loomed as one of the hottest topics.
The importance that broadcasters are placing on deals to sell ads during live "event TV" like U.S. National Football League games and the Olympics, for instance - as well as shows like the Sound of Music Live - show their awareness of how people's TV-watching habits have changed, Desmond said.
The shift, reflecting the increased use of DVRs as well as streaming services like Netflix, has been widely blamed for the weak sales at this year's upfront - the annual spring ritual where broadcasters sell TV commercial time in advance of the program season.
Sports programming like Sunday night professional football is one of the few types of programming guaranteed to draw millions of viewers, who increasingly watch TV shows via multiple devices at their own convenience rather than at the time of actual broadcast.
At the same time, the proliferation of video in other forums like YouTube gives advertisers new choices as they try to target their commercial audience.
"There are more ways to spend advertising money in video. It's just that simple," Desmond said.
Another dominant theme making the rounds at various venues and panels during Advertising Week is the swift rise of automated buying through electronic exchanges, known as programmatic.
Interpublic Group of Cos Inc's research arm, Magna Global, forecast earlier this week that more than $50 billion of worldwide advertising spending will funnel through programmatic platforms by 2018, more than double this year's projection of $21 billion.
Desmond said that programmatic buying is "one important piece of the spectrum" and favors markets with abundance, like digital display advertising. "It's unclear how automation will work in markets of scarcity," she said.
Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler