Nets Set to Rock New Year’s Eve

Dec 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

ABC, the long-time home to king of New Year’s Eve Dick Clark, is once again poised to reign in advertising revenue and ratings on the last day of 2005, despite challenges by Fox and NBC.

This year, ABC’s “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” will be co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest of Fox’s “American Idol” since Mr. Clark is recovering from a stroke. Last week Coca-Cola signed on as one of the key sponsors of the telecast.

Fox has booked Regis Philbin, normally an ABC stalwart, to host “New Year’s Eve Live,” and NBC is scheduled to air “NBC New Year’s Eve With Carson Daly, Presented by Chevrolet.” With New Year’s Eve falling on a Saturday night, CBS does not plan any network programming after prime time ends at 11 p.m.

On cable, “MTV’s New Year of Music” will broadcast from its Times Square studio.

Fox is close to finalizing sponsorship packages with marketers in the auto, wireless and financial services fields, said Jon Nesvig, president of sales. And all of the New Year’s Eve shows are selling sponsorships and packages that include product integration.

As far as advertising is concerned, New Year’s is no Super Bowl, but it draws enough viewers that Fox wants to “put a stake in the ground,” Mr. Nesvig said.

“I think there’s room for other players,” he said. “I think Regis is potentially more of an heir to Dick Clark’s audience than Ryan might be.”

ABC, which traditionally commands by far the highest advertising rates for New Year’s Eve, is selling 30-second commercials for about $180,000 during the 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. segment of this year’s broadcast-a big number for a late-night slot. Last New Year’s Eve between 11:35 p.m. and 1 a.m., ABC generated ad revenues of nearly $4 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The other networks combined drew about $2.5 million.

“It’s one of those shows where there’s just enough demand. Not too much demand to jack prices sky-high, but enough that it chugs along,” said Doug Hochstadt, VP of late-night sales for ABC.

In addition to buying spots for several of its brands-one of which will have a special New Year’s theme-Coke will sponsor a performance by Mariah Carey, the first live musical performance in Times Square in the show’s history. Coke’s famous Times Square billboard will also be incorporated into the program, a Coke spokesperson said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

While Coke has also bought spots in some of the competing New Year’s broadcasts, it is making a major commitment only to the ABC show, which is traditional.

“Our ad focus is about optimism and coming together, so what better time to celebrate than New Year’s Eve?” the spokesperson said.

Some of Fox’s spots on its show were sold during the late-night upfront, and Mr. Nesvig said he hopes to get $80,000 to $90,000 per unit for spots.

Many marketers don’t advertise during the holiday week. “For most of our clients, it’s not a big time of the year to be advertising,” said Ray Dundas, senior VP and group director of national broadcast for Initiative. “They won’t make an exception for these kinds of programs.”

But for some clients, it’s a good time to advertise. Advertisers such as health foods and gyms like to take advantage of people making New Year’s resolutions. Some retailers and auto dealers also run early-year sales to get rid of inventory that didn’t sell during the holiday season.

Bang for the Buck

“Rockin’ Eve” is expected to remain the highest-rated show of the evening. “Rockin’ Eve” drew a 6.4 rating among adults 18 to 49 on New Year’s Eve last year-a Friday night-topping Fox’s 2.6, NBC’s 2.3, CBS’s 1.1 and MTV’s 0.9, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Because Nielsen doesn’t track out-of-home viewing, however, not everyone who watches the ball drop shows up in the ratings. Some people watch in bars, where Nielsen doesn’t measure at all, and at parties, where not everyone gets picked up by the ratings meters.

“Just because there are 20 people in your house, that doesn’t mean you can put 20 people into your box,” said Jason Kanefsky, VP and account director for MPG.

That means New Year’s advertisers may be getting more viewers than they’re paying for.

“From a bonus perspective, there’s a lot of potential value,” Mr. Kanefsky said. “The flip side is there’s a lot of potential value that’s lost because people are involved in situations and they may be less attentive to the messaging.”

Some buyers wonder how engaged a bunch of drunken revelers will be with a commercial shown in the background while they’re celebrating. “Viewers are there, but I don’t know what shape they’re in,” said Shari Anne Brill, VP and director of programming for Carat USA.

ABC’s Mr. Hochstadt said no client has ever brought that up as an issue. Viewers have to pay attention so they can kiss someone when the clock winds down to midnight. “There’s a lot of stuff you have to be pretty on the ball for if you want to have the ultimate New Year’s experience,” he said.

New Year’s Eve telecasts are natural candidates for product integration deals, buyers said.

“ABC tries to sell Dick Clark in terms of sponsorships, multiple units and billboards,” Mr. Dundas said. Those packages could include getting a sponsor’s Times Square billboards more camera time as the ball is dropping. “It doesn’t cost the network anything to do,” Mr. Dundas said. “They just have to be cognizant of covering that as they’re panning the crowd.”

One of the sponsors of MTV’s New Year’s Eve show is GM’s Pontiac division. Pontiac has a large garage in Times Square and some of the show’s activities will take place there, said Tim Rosta, head of integrated marketing for MTV.

Pontiac and MTV are also working on a wireless and online promotion for the Pontiac Solstice and will give away a pimped-out version of the roadster similar to the one in a Ludacris music video.

Mr. Rosta said the deal was part of General Motors’ upfront commitment to MTV Networks. Pontiac also has been a key sponsor of the “MTV Movie Awards.”

Another sponsor is nutritional products maker Xyience, which is sponsoring programming on MTV’s broadband channel Overdrive. Segments will feature a celebrity trainer and health tips from music stars. Other sponsors include Cingular, Skechers and Warner Bros., which will be promoting the film “Rumor Has It.”

But are the youngsters who watch MTV going to be watching the tube on New Year’s Eve?

“I think we’re an important destination, especially for young people and especially for music fans that night,” Mr. Rosta said. “It’s a night when young people get together, and we’re definitely the soundtrack to their parties in many cases.”