First SNTA in New York is SRO

Feb 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Its will be standing room only next week as the Syndicated Network Television Association hosts the first national syndication marketplace to be held in New York City. That is quite a turnaround from only a few months ago, when plans for the post-NATPE meetings were first revealed. At that time some said the event was doomed because of competition within the ranks and lack of interest from media buyers.
Instead, the SNTA organizers are now turning away some potential attendees from the by-invitation-only event because of space considerations, and preliminary talks have already begun about moving to a larger venue next year.
SNTA president Gene DeWitt said that the fledgling event is already a success even before it starts: “I think that the attendance alone tells you that this is a year when syndication finally comes into its own. For years the business kept itself in a basket of fragmentation that left a potential $2.5 billion marketplace off the lists of media planners. This is the first time that we’ve taken a point of view that we’re distinct, and advertisers are taking notice.”
Also attracting notice is the quality and quantity of those planning to attend, both from the advertising community and the syndication side. Among the 600 to 700 people scheduled to attend are the top executives on Madison Avenue, including media buyers, planners and clients. Among those expected are Horizon Media Executive VP and Director of National Broadcast Aaron Cohen, Pfizer’s Director, team leader-media, Donna Campanella, OMD Managing Director Ray Warren, Mediavest President of U.S. Broadcast Mel Berning, Mindshare Chairman Irwin Gotlieb and Peggy Green, president of National Broadcast, Zenith Media. Clients ranging from General Motors to Coca-Cola will also be in attendance.
“Looking at this attendee list you see an incredible group of people,” said Bob Cesa, executive VP, advertising and cable sales, for Twentieth Television. “Over the years only a select group of people were able to go to NATPE to see our presentations. Now people are able to see what our business is all about who never had the opportunity before. We will be there to remind them that in syndication you know exactly what you’re buying, because each show has an audience profile, so they stand to benefit from stability and predictability.”
The SNTA membership currently consists of Buena Vista, King World, Paramount, The Heritage Networks, Tribune, Twentieth, Universal and Warner Bros. NBC has also made an agreement to present at the marketplace.
“I think SNTA has done an excellent job at organizing this event and getting buyers, and we look forward to being a part of it,” said Ed Wilson, president of NBC Enterprises.
“Marc Hirsch [chairman of SNTA and president of Paramount Advertiser Services] has done a tremendous job putting eight companies with different philosophies aside to uniformly stand together and educate an awful lot of planners and researchers,” said Clark Morehouse, senior VP of advertiser sales at Tribune Entertainment, which represents not only Tribune product but series from New Line, Hearst, Telco and October Moon as well. “NATPE was always too early to seriously work on the advertising component of the business, so we figured that by focusing the conference in New York there won’t be any travel and we could make this as turnkey as humanly possible.”
The event will be held at the New York Sheraton and already plans are being considered to move to a larger location next year due to the massive turnout.
“We tried to keep it open to as many people as possible, but we’ve been limited in the number of hours as well as the size of the rooms to accommodate larger meetings. Hopefully next year we’ll find a better venue that can fit all of our needs,” said Steve Hirsch, president of King World Media Sales. “We had to turn a few people away, but we still are pleased with the volume of attendees and look forward to reminding them of who we are and how we do business.”
One key syndicator not part of SNTA, Sony Pictures Television, will hold a party Monday night to welcome its own business partners.
“When we went to NATPE we went with our presentation of our product for next year,” said Bo Argentino, executive VP of advertiser sales at the company. “We may not be a part of the SNTA conference but we will be kicking off our presentation with a party to thank our advertisers and entertain those we want more face time with.”
Ms. Argentino noted that the second quarter has been strong in the scatter markets and that trend points to more positive movement in the cyclical business. That point is shared by others, with some speculating that there is a solid chance the syndication upfronts (advance advertising sales) could break before the network upfronts this year.
“What I find interesting is that a number of advertisers five years ago didn’t know what syndication was. Today they have dipped their toe in the water and are now making plans to come in further at the next upfront,” said Mr. DeWitt. “Last year syndication moved with the upfronts, and now everybody knows what the network psychology is this year, so I think that its entirely possible that syndicators [could] run out of inventory before the networks or cable.”
“Scatter has been strong over the past four quarters, while pricing for network continues to grow dramatically, and that can typically be a strong sign for the upfronts,” added Mr. Cesa.
But for syndicators, the overall success of the SNTA meetings will be measured carefully. They note that its still too early for any deals to fall in line, but as long as they are in the plans, the pains of pulling together the market will be worth it.
“I think a large portion of the success matrix will be determined by the clients. What did they learn about our business? Did they enhance or further their relationship with us?,” said Michael Teicher, executive VP of media sales at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “To me this represents a unique and ideal opportunity to focus exclusively on the sales/barter aspect of syndication, and everyone who attends stands to benefit from the education of this conference.”