The recent economic downturn is beginning to take a toll on the syndication industry, and Promax could be the first to feel the fallout.
The world’s largest gathering of promotion, marketing and design professionals in TV, digital media and radio is set for the end of June-but without some of its traditional major players.
Citing cutbacks, the Paramount and Granite stations plus the CBS and Fox owned-and-operated stations will join the already nonparticipating Tribune and Sinclair station groups in sitting out this year’s conference.
Others stations are waiting to see what distributors will do before making any decisions. However, stations from NBC and Chris-Craft Industries are still expected to arrive in close to full force.
“It’s too costly to send the GMs to network affiliate meetings, so it’s even tougher for stations to send their promo guys to Miami,” said the president of one station group not attending the conference. “Promax is definitely beneficial, but right now it’s a luxury that we can’t afford. With any luck, we’ll be able to return in full force next year.”
In response, many syndicators are shifting their strategies for the event by cutting out annual presentations, downsizing from full-out celebrity-driven sessions to cocktail parties, offering a single session instead of multiple ones, sending fewer executives or even preparing to take presentations on the road and visit stations throughout the country.
Despite the cutbacks, Promax & BDA President and CEO Glynn Brailsford had added events this year that cater to attending stations. In fact, Mr. Brailsford is quick to note that despite the station groups’ pulling out, registration is on par with last year’s figures.
“Despite consolidation and the dot-com downturn, we’re still in an ever-expanding industry,” he said. “New channels-be they digital, online, international, etc.-are launching all the time. Each of these channels is looking for the best way to make their mark in the marketplace-and that’s exactly what Promax & BDA is about.”
Promax is the one annual occasion when promo execs from both the syndication and local station communities can meet eye to eye to launch campaigns. Last year, many station groups did arrive en masse, including LIN Television, USA Broadcasting and Paramount Stations Group. The ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox O&Os also participated. However, Tribune joined Sinclair in dropping participation at the event.
This year, syndicators will make their presence known in different and less-costly ways. King World Productions, which at one time held elaborate sessions for multiple shows, will instead host a three-day open house at its hospitality suite, with individual sessions for all its series. The move echoes what Warner Bros. did last year when it arranged for its own suite, an approach that will be repeated again this year.
Other players will send executives to the conference but will either host a cocktail party or save money by flying promotion executives around the country to meet with stations individually. Among the companies expected to follow this route are Twentieth Television and Universal Television.
Columbia TriStar Television Distribution is still deciding what moves to make at the conference, according to sources.
“We are a big believer in the conference,” said a marketing executive at one of the studios. “But right now this just makes more economic sense for us. We can’t go all out on these sessions without our key stations in attendance.”
Paramount is still expected to make a presentation for either the upcoming strip “Rendez View” or the weekly series “Hot Ticket” but is unlikely to do both, according to Promax sources. Paramount officials said they were still deciding on their plans for the confab.
But Mr. Brailsford expects stations to return next year.
“We’ve introduced many new initiatives, like the news track and a digital track, aimed at helping our members make sense of all the bewildering but exciting developments happening at breakneck pace around them,” he said. “We’re also running-for the first time-several two- and three-part sessions that really dig deep into subjects.”
The news track will be chaired by Rich Brase, creative services director for NBC affiliate KGW-TV, Portland, Ore. There will be eight modules of the news track staged across two full days (June 22 and 23). Experts will cover the basics of news promotion, from scripting, graphics, editing and sound design through to the creation of truly effective topical and sweeps promotions. Also highlighted will be a proof-of-performance promotion and the most effective ways to buy media to drive ratings.
“Driving ratings for news programs is the No. 1 priority for many of our members,” Mr. Brailsford said. “Driving those ratings also drives up advertising dollars. That’s also crucial for our members, and that’s why we’ve taken this initiative. There’s a clear demand for comprehensive education and guidance on what works and what doesn’t work in news promotion. We want to help our members deliver work that really drives numbers and pushes through to the bottom line.”