Fox Box filling up

Sep 2, 2002  •  Post A Comment

4Kids Entertainment’s Saturday morning Fox Box block has sold just over 80 percent of its national ad inventory to date, said 4Kids Entertainment Chairman Al Kahn.
The sell-out rate, though found to be unexpectedly high by national ad buyers, could be the result of modest 2 percent to 3 percent increases on cost-per-thousand rates from Fox Kids Network’s rates last year, buyers estimated.
“They were aggressively pitching new business, but they positioned [Fox Box] as a network-equivalent to other established terrestrial broadcasters,” said kids buyer Harv Furman, whose Minneapolis-based Campbell/ Mithun agency bought some national avails in Fox Box. “There was some discounting, but they did put themselves in a pricing position that was somewhat consistent with [the former] Fox Kids Network. I think they were very realistic going into the kids upfront and until they have a proven [ratings] base to sell off of in the scatter markets and next year.”
With the overall kids upfront market estimated to be in the $750 million to $800 million range for the entire cable TV and broadcast universe, there are some buyers who think 4Kids can break even or make money on its $25 million-per-year licensing deal with Fox for the Saturday morning time periods.
Even though Fox Kids Network fell into some disrepair the past three years as Fox looked to extricate itself from an awkward marriage with Saban Entertainment, it accounted for more than 20 percent of the kids ratings among the broadcast networks on Saturday mornings. For that reason buyers think that if 4Kids can get Fox Box to grab at least a 5 percent share of the overall kids upfront (cable and broadcast), the expected $40 million in revenue could be enough to break even or profit.
“If 4Kids can reach or pass that $40 million threshold, they could stand to walk away some front-end profits,” said a New York-based kids buyer, who requested anonymity. Along with other buyers, the source estimated that 4Kids needs only to achieve pricing at $7,500 to $12,000 per 30-second commercial unit (or 3,338 units over the whole 52-week schedule) to break even or make money.
“We assumed going in that we might not make enough in ad sales to cover our [first-year] investment,” Mr. Kahn said. “But a big part of our amortizing our costs is how it relates to merchandising and licensing of toys, video games, home video, trading cards, international sales and other product lines. But most of it depends on how successful these shows are [in the ratings] to be indicative of the kind of revenues we’ll take from these ancillary markets as well. It all has to work hand in hand.”
In laying out a four-hour, eight-series Fox Box programming lineup, Mr. Kahn has initiated “cross-media platform” promotional spot buys on cable systems and even non-Fox-affiliated TV stations locally. In addition to having a Fox Box preview special scheduled to air in Fox’s prime-time lineup Sunday, Sept. 1, the company launched a new “rich media” Internet site (www.FoxBox.TV) to offer streaming video promotions of the new shows in addition to contests and co-branding initiatives with advertisers.
Mr. Kahn said FoxBox.TV is being offered to advertisers on a value-added or on a standalone basis. He said that “subsite links” will direct children and teen viewers to go from FoxBox.TV to separately branded URL addresses with new shows such as “Kirby” and “Kinnikuman,” which could tie-in well with existing video game and comic book lines.