Syndication needs a voice

Sep 10, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The word last week that Allison Bodenmann was leaving her post as president of the Syndicated Network Television Association was not good news for the beleaguered syndication business. Syndicators need to find a replacement quickly, and they need to put a lot more resources into the organization than they gave Ms. Bodenmann.
It was the summer of 1999 when SNTA-an incredibly awkwardly named organization-replaced the equally awkwardly named Advertiser Syndicated Television Association. At the time, Jon Mandel, co-managing director of MediaCom, said, “For too long, syndication has been somewhat invisible.” ASTA-basically a one-man band played by Tim Duncan, the then-executive director-did what it could, Mr. Mandel noted, but syndicators “weren’t putting any muscle behind it.”
Like Mr. Duncan, Ms. Bodenmann believed in the mantra “`Oprah’, `Rosie’ and `Jerry Spinger’ good, `Seinfeld’ reruns even better.” Furthermore, two longtime holdouts from ASTA, Columbia TriStar Television Distribution and Paramount Domestic Television, joined SNTA. The prospects were bright for SNTA to rival the image-boosting work done by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau for cable programmers.
And the result three years later? Well, John Muszynski of Starcom Worldwide, one of the most influential buyers in our industry, was quoted last week as saying, “Our clients don’t know what syndication is unless we tell them.”
Mr. Muszynski was being harsh-and somewhat disingenuous, since it was with Ms. Bodenmann’s help that a major Starcom client started buying syndicated programming-but his point is well taken. Indeed, Ms. Bodenmann herself, despite her Herculean efforts in traveling the country talking to client after client, told Electronic Media last week, “You’d be surprised at how many planners there are today who still aren’t clear about what syndication is.”
To get SNTA to the next level so it really can become the CAB for syndication is first and foremost a resource issue. This is one of those problems that can be at least partially solved by throwing money at it. Sufficient money to hire enough people who can comb the country meeting with clients and media planners to sell syndication’s story.
The only question is whether syndicators, ultimately, have the interest and thus the fortitude to do so.