Big Buy Fires Up Scatter Market

Oct 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Citigroup made a deposit worth between $70 million and $100 million into TV network coffers this month, giving a shot in the arm to a very quiet scatter market.
Network ad executives said the Citigroup purchase was the biggest for the networks since the upfront. Some of the networks, treating the purchase as a “post-upfront buy” rather than a scatter buy, gave the financial institution ratings guarantees.
The bulk of the cash was evenly spread among ABC, CBS and NBC. Citicorp bought some time on Fox’s World Series coverage and during “24.” Some money was also spent on cable and syndication.
Sources said that most of the money will go to buy time for spots touting the security features of Citigroup’s credit card business. The rest will be spent to air spots carrying a corporate message. Citigroup’s target was adults in the 25 to 54 demographic with a male skew. The banking giant also wanted shows attracting viewers with relatively high income levels.
Citigroup used to be a major upfront advertiser, but two years ago dropped its upfront holds and changed its focus to more regional buys, network sales executives said.
Broadcast network ad sellers said the market is slow but steady, with new budgets coming in to the networks at about the same rate that business is being written. They certainly aren’t swamped, but there’s always some money at work, they said.
For some cable ad sellers, the outlook is bleaker.
“There’s barely a palpable heartbeat,” Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP, ad sales, Fox Cable Network Group, said last week. “Next week should be an interesting week once the World Series is over.”
At that point, Mr. Lefkowitz said, advertisers will have a better handle on how much their broadcast schedules have underdelivered and how many make-goods they’ll be getting. Those make-goods should tighten the broadcasters’ inventory and some of that money may go to cable. The market is also waiting for the rest of the traditional scatter advertisers.
“How much money is there? What effect, if any, will the stronger earnings reports have on how much money is released? We’ll know for sure after Halloween,” Mr. Lefkowitz said.

Arlene Manos, president of national advertising sales at Rainbow Advertising Sales, said, “It is slower, but we are not not doing business.” She said a few late calendar upfront deals have been completed recently.
Ms. Manos said Rainbow’s Fuse network has been doing well because some advertisers targeting younger viewers have been spending, including movies and the record business.
“I’m being cautious, but I’m not concerned for the fourth quarter,” she said.
Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for Discovery Networks, said, “Scatter has been very steady and we are almost sold out.”