Syndication Upfront Sales Coming in Flat

Aug 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Several syndicators said last week they had nearly completed their upfront sales, and like their counterparts in broadcast and cable, they found dollars tight and prices largely flat.

While negotiations this year were longer and more drawn out than in recent years for the syndicators, one buyer said many syndication deals were done before cable was completed because they were accepting more reasonable terms early in the process.

There was less money in the market, but daytime shows were in demand and commanded low to mid-level single-digit increases, the buyer said.

The syndication upfront is worth about $3 billion and was expected to be up 4 percent, according to Merrill Lynch.

As was the case with the broadcast and cable sectors, the impact of digital elements in the syndication upfront was minimal. NBC Universal made some deals that include digital components and branded integration, said Tim Miller, VP of ad sales East for NBC Universal Television Distribution.

But Amy Carney, executive VP of advertiser sales for Sony Pictures Television, said interest in digital extensions attached to syndicated properties is limited. “As yet, I don’t know that syndication has become the go-to media” in this area, Ms. Carney said.

Still, ad sellers found bright spots.

“We felt we had a good understanding of the marketplace and where we wanted to be,” Ms. Carney said.

Sony was up overall in volume, she said. Pricing showed gains in daytime and new daytime shows were well-received. Sony’s new entry for daytime this fall is “The Greg Behrendt Show.”

“It’s more of mixed bag” with off-network shows, Ms. Carney said.

Pharmaceutical and wireless advertisers came back to syndication this year, Ms. Carney said, but the theatrical category was not that strong.

Volume was the same as last year for News Corp.’s syndication division Twentieth Television, said Bob Cesa, executive VP, advertising sales for Twentieth. “That’s a win in this market.”

He said in addition to its court shows in daytime, the performance of off-net comedy “That ’70s Show” attracted advertisers in the fast food, casual dining, movie and video game categories.

Mr. Miller said his company bucked the market trend because it took over ad sales for “Access Hollywood” from Warner Bros., and it added the upcoming daytime contender “The Megan Mullally Show” to its lineup.

“Having a show like ‘Access’ brings people in,” Mr. Miller said. “‘Megan Mullally’ was very well sold” at strong prices relative to the market. Strong categories for NBCUD included cosmetics, auto, pharmaceuticals and restaurants.