WB, Nick lead kids TV

Dec 30, 2002  •  Post A Comment

A sea creature named SpongeBob and a card-playing boy named Yu-Gi-Oh have helped kids TV market champs Nickelodeon and WB turn in strong ratings performances during the fourth quarter. Overall, the kids TV market saw a nice bump in ad revenue from movie studios and toy and video-game marketers.
So far, fourth-quarter advertising revenue for kids programming is 3 percent to 5 percent higher compared with the same time period a year ago, according to media buyers and sellers. This has resulted in a slightly higher price for a TV commercial than during the kids upfront market.
Kids market up
National TV kids upfront advertising sales for the 2002-2003 broadcast year-which stretched from April to August of this year-improved 7 percent to $815 million overall, according to an informal survey of media agency and selling executives. Overall, it’s expected the 2002 calendar year could end up 10 percent, reaching $1 billion. Movies, video games, package goods and traditional toy companies are the growth areas.
“The market has been really up against all categories,” says Susan Danaher, executive VP and general sales manager for Nickelodeon/ Nick at Nite and TV Land. “And from our experience this is the first year that the toy category didn’t shrink. In fact, it grew.”
Karl Kuechenmeister, senior VP of ad sales at Turner Kids Television, which owns The Cartoon Network, concured. “We have tremendous growth in share and revenue from virtually all clients with business up 35 percent in the calendar year.”
Still, media executives offer a mixed review of the entire ad market. “It’s been a neutral market,” says one major media-buying executive. “Money is somewhat up, but ratings are up as well.” That means, said the executive, that CPMs [cost per thousand viewers] aren’t rising because there is a glut of ratings points.
Season-to-date ratings show The WB and Nickelodeon leading. For Saturday mornings-a key kids programming time block-The WB topped Nickelodeon in head-to-head competition in the growing ages 6 to 11 demographic with a Nielsen Media Research 5.4 rating to Nickelodeon’s 5.2. Much of that performance is thanks to WB’s “Yu-Gi-Oh!”-an animated show about a bunch of teens who play a card-battling game in which players pit different mystical creatures against each another.
According to executives at The WB, the 6 to 11 demo is increasingly valuable to advertisers. “You always want to program up, not down,” said Bill Morningstar, The WB’s executive VP of advertising sales. “You want to hit the kids 6 to 11, because you can always get the younger brother to join them.”
Nickelodeon gains share
The ultimate kid TV land is, however, still Nickelodeon, now improving its share of Nielsen’s total weekly kid ratings points to 50 from 48 of a year ago. Cartoon Network dropped for the first time in years, sinking to 32 from 35. The WB, which has far fewer hours of kids programming compared with the 24-hour cable channels, improved to a 6 from a 4.
Average weekly kids 2- to 11-year-olds ratings, through Nov. 11 had Nickelodeon up 3.5 percent to a Nielsen 3.1 rating. The WB was 35 percent higher at a 2.7; Cartoon Network posted a 1.7, down 11 percent. ABC’s “Disney One Saturday Morning” was up 6 percent to a 1.8. CBS’s “Nick on CBS” was flat at a 1.6. Fox Box, a new Fox kids network, earned a 1.3 in its first year. UPN was at 1.0, down 10 percent; NBC, with a new Discovery Networks-produced kids block, was at 0.6.
Cartoon ratings dive
Cartoon Network’s dwindling ratings were the biggest surprise. One veteran media-buying executive said the network hit a “perfect storm.” It appeared to lose some of its viewership among boys age 6 to 11 to its sibling The WB, according to this executive. Other executives said Cartoon Network, now firmly established, isn’t getting the benefit of subscriber distribution gains it has in the past.
Nickelodeon remains strong because of its “SpongeBob Square-Pants” franchise, which regularly appears as one of the 10 highest-rated overall cable programs.
In addition to the launch of 4Kids Entertainment’s Fox Box, a boys-targeted network on Fox, Discovery Network introduced a kids educational programming block on NBC. Fox Box pulled in a 2.2 Nielsen rating among boys 6 to 11, coming in third behind The WB and Nickelodeon. Discovery’s block pulled in a small 0.6 Nielsen rating among kids 2 to 11.