The Syndicated Network Television Association expects a big turnout at this week’s Syndication Day in New York, and at similar get-togethers scheduled for Chicago and Los Angeles later this month, SNTA President Mitch Burg said.
This will be the third year the SNTA has held its conference in New York, enabling members to communicate with the advertising community “about trends in television-total television-not just looking at ourselves and talking about how syndication can help clients achieve their goals,” Mr. Burg said.
This year’s conference will aim in particular to reach media planners, who are often influential in deciding whether syndication is an appropriate television vehicle for particular clients and brands. A special session in the afternoon-just before the annual star-studded cocktail party-has been designed to give planners a look at targeting issues.
“Planners think about targeting a little differently,” Mr. Burg said. “It’s not an age or a demo [they’re after]; it’s consumer usage groups. A planner’s target would be nonloyal users of X category.”
Mr. Burg noted that the SNTA has put out research papers on syndicated program viewers’ use of categories ranging from health and wellness to holiday shopping and consumer electronics. “We’ll share some of those at the conference as well,” he said.
He said he’s enthusiastic about the performance of syndicated shows and intends to tell that story at this year’s conference.
The conference will open with a presentation by Mr. Burg covering an array of areas, including ad clutter, audience fragmentation, programming quality, branded entertainment and product integration. “It’s always focused on what clients tell us they’re interested in,” he said.
Mr. Burg said he’s looking forward to discussing syndication’s growth. Ad revenues are up 17.3 percent to $8.3 billion so far in the current television season, according to Competitive Media Reports, he said.
After Mr. Burg’s morning presentation, individual syndicators will have private meetings with agencies and clients, during which the syndicators will highlight their shows and talk about marketing opportunities.
“We’re going to spend a lot more time on our new shows, which are ‘My Wife and Kids’ and ‘Alias,'” said Howard Levy, executive VP of ad sales for Buena Vista Television and chairman of SNTA. “‘Alias’ couldn’t be hotter, and ‘My Wife and Kids’ is the No. 1 sitcom. It’s a great all-family show.”
Mr. Levy said he will also highlight some of the marketing deals involving his shows, from the Pontiac van giveaway during “Live With Regis and Kelly” to the new AOL lifeline on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” to a Unilever promotion launch on “The Tony Danza Show.”
Such deals are very important to advertisers, Mr. Levy said. “We’re looking for people to come in and be partners on specific projects.”
In its meetings, Warner Bros. will look to “enlighten our customers, provide information for them they may not have already had so they can make more effective, well thought out media decisions,” said Michael Teicher, executive VP of media sales for Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
“We’ll certainly be spending a lot of time talking about ‘Tyra Banks,’ ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Smallville’ as well as highlighting some incredible growth stories with our daytime darling, [‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’], and some of our other properties,” he said.
Paramount will be talking about “Enterprise,” which is voyaging into syndication, said Marc Hirsch, president of Paramount Advertiser Services. The company’s “The Insider” has integrated segments sponsored by T-Mobile and Procter & Gamble, but those types of deals are hard to discuss at SNTA sessions in which an agency and several of its clients may be present, Mr. Hirsch said.
SNTA was formed four years ago, and its seven member companies are most of the major syndicators-Buena Vista Television Advertising Sales, King World Media Sales, NBC Universal Television Distribution, Paramount Advertiser Services, Tribune Entertainment Co., Twentieth Television and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.
Not so long ago, large numbers of advertisers would go to the annual National Association of Television Program Executives conference to find out what was going on in the world of syndication. As the syndication business consolidated, the need arose for another organization to deal with the concerns of advertisers.
“I think Mitch and the organization are doing a fantastic job,” said Warner Bros.’ Mr. Teicher. “He has seen countless clients and begun the education process for them and has done an excellent job of raising awareness about the merits of syndication via some custom studies that have raised our profile.”
That research has resulted in news stories on syndication’s strength on Fridays and its effectiveness in reaching holiday shoppers.
“What the SNTA does is give the industry a voice,” said Paramount’s Mr. Hirsch. “Syndication has been oftentimes the stepchild, the Cinderella of the three national media, between the broadcast and cable networks. I think that by having an effective spokesperson and an organization responsible for all the members, we get a voice at the big table.”
Before the SNTA, the syndicators had an organization called the Advertiser Syndicated Television Association, which faltered, partly because it was underfunded. When the SNTA began planning its first conference, there was a small controversy over the need for such an event separate from NATPE.
“There’s definitely a need for two organizations, because the SNTA’s mandate is to go out and sell the benefits of advertiser-supported syndication,” said the organization’s chairman, Mr. Levy. “Nowhere is that anywhere close to being anything that NATPE has ever done. Nor is it what they would do.”
The only major syndicator that’s not an SNTA member is Sony, which does its own outreach to the advertising community. Mr. Burg said he doesn’t know the reasons behind Sony’s decision, but he would be happy to see the company join. “I have no issues with the Sony folk,” he said. “Would they benefit from being a member of the SNTA? I think they would, and I think they recognize that.”
A Sony spokesperson declined to comment for this story.
Mr. Burg said he has not sought out smaller syndicators for SNTA membership, but that they would be welcome to join as well. “Frankly, my job is to go out and talk to clients and agency people,” he said. “I’ve not spent the time soliciting membership.”
Mr. Burg’s predecessor, advertising executive Gene DeWitt, left the organization in 2003 amid board unhappiness when he spoke dismissively of ad buyers’ so-called “whining” about ad rates going up.
Mr. DeWitt sued the SNTA for breach of contract, and that suit was settled last year. Mr. Burg said he did not work with Mr. DeWitt, and other SNTA officials declined to discuss Mr. DeWitt or his tenure.
Mr. Burg said he expects this year’s conference to generate positive attention for syndication.
“The good news for the syndication business is that clients are recognizing our strength,” he said. “When you look at clients that spend more than $50 million in national television, 80 [percent] to 85 percent of them are already participating in syndication in a significant way.”
When: March 10, 2005
Where: Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York
Agenda: Opening breakfast presentation; meetings among syndicators, agencies and clients; planners’ session; cocktail reception
Ticket price/availability: No charge/invitation only