Flat Kids Upfront Seen by Buyers

May 15, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The kids advertising upfront market has started moving, with Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network pulling the trigger first this year. The network has completed deals for about 40 percent of the inventory it plans to sell in the upfront, according to one industry source.

Prices for Cartoon are up 10 percent for ad time in the so-called “hard 10”-the 10-week period before Christmas and pre-Easter, when kids advertising is concentrated.

Based on how things are going overall for Cartoon, the $800 million kids market is likely to end flat at best. Turner executives declined to comment.

It did not appear last week that kids leader Nickelodeon had made many significant deals yet. Nickelodeon has some of next season’s inventory sold already as part of previous multiyear deals. Nickelodeon executives also declined to comment.

Both Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon presented their programming for next season to ad buyers in March, but buyers said there’s been no urgency to buy.

“I see no rush because it is one totally tanked market,” said Jon Mandel, chief negotiating officer for MediaCom. “There’s so much inventory that if you want Thanksgiving, you’ll probably be able to buy it the day before.”

Mr. Mandel said the kids market is going to be slammed by additional changes in rules governing kids food advertising.

Earlier this month the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services released a study that called for new standards in kids advertising. The agency recommended that food advertised to kids meet certain nutritional standards and that lower-calorie, more nutritious foods should be the main focus of advertising targeted toward kids. The report also expressed concern about product placement.

Fast-Food Ad Issues

The role of advertising in contributing to health issues-including obesity among children-has been an issue for several years, and marketers such as Kraft have shifted their advertising focus to the healthier products they offer.

Until now, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network have said the concerns have had little effect on their ad revenues, but Mr. Mandel sees marketers cutting back sharply.

He said that those networks should have been cultivating other categories. And while Nickelodeon, for one, has gotten some car advertising aimed at parents, “That doesn’t make up for the cuts we’re going to have. It doesn’t come close,” he said.

Aaron Cohen, executive VP and director of broadcast for Horizon Media, said he hadn’t seen any kids market activity.

“If it doesn’t happen relatively quickly, it will have to wait” until after the prime-time upfront negotiations are concluded, Mr. Cohen said.