TBS Deflates Price of ‘Sex’ Ads

Mar 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

For its high-profile off-HBO-run of the “Sex and the City” series, Turner Broadcasting has made several $5 million advertising deals -far less than its initial asking price, according to media agency executives.
Last fall, just after acquiring the show, the cable network astounded media agency executives by seeking a $50 million deal from one major advertiser and $30 million deals from three smaller advertisers.
Now Turner’s strategy is to open the show to a broader list of sponsors. Media executives said a weak second-quarter scatter advertising marketplace was partly why Turner has altered its strategy.
Overall, Turner has revised its advertising projection to take in between $80 million and $100 million for the 15 months that TBS has an exclusive window for the show, according to media buying and selling executives. Originally, Turner was targeting as much as $140 million in total for the series, which debuts on TBS in June, from just primarily four major advertisers.
A Turner Broadcasting spokesman wouldn’t discuss any advertising particulars, only saying: “We continue to have ongoing positive discussions with sponsors for the series.”
Media executives said that not only has the soft marketplace slowed down Turner, but so may have some current TV content concerns stemming from the incident when Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show.
“With any media property there is demand at an appropriate price,” said John Rash, senior VP of national broadcast for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. “There will be some advertisers who have lower comfort levels with content, particularly in light of the Super Bowl controversy and FCC hearings.”
Turner’s smaller deals packages are for only commercial time.
TBS is still pursuing the bigger deals, which include a number of integrated marketing components, such as specially produced vignettes for advertisers and specially produced magazine advertising pages. There are also radio and online media pieces. Media executives don’t know whether Turner will have enough time to make large deals with the upfront process now under way and the series to start in three months.
Likely candidates for the big packages include Revlon and L’Oreal. Others include major Turner advertisers-such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Unilever-that traditionally have spent $30 million to $40 million a year on the network.
Media estimates are that the show will have four airings on TBS and the network could aggressively be selling a 5.0 cume rating. Figuring an average $12 cost per thousand household viewers on TBS, this comes to $55,000 per 30-second prime-time commercial spot in the show.
After TBS’s 15-month run of “Sex,” the cable network will share the show with broadcast syndication starting in September 2005. Sister company Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution is the show’s syndicator. The Tribune stations, representing the major markets, have already signed on.
Turner executives cite the show’s limited exposure on HBO and no association with any advertiser as justifications for the high price. TBS executives say the big deals won’t be funded out of normal cable budgets, but out of bigger media and marketing budgets of advertisers.