Syndicators’ advertising sales executives expect to see fewer clients at this month’s NATPE convention, but they’re seeing more of their money.
The factors that are causing ad rates to rise in other sectors of the television industry, such as low ratings and tight inventory at the broadcast networks and concern over the effects of the writers strike, are boosting syndication sales in the scatter market.
“The confluence of all that has led to a very strong market for those who have quality ratings points to sell,” said Michael Teicher, executive VP, media sales, at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “Certainly we will have a better year, year over year.”
And prices are much higher than they were in the upfront.
“These are the highest differentials in CPM [cost per thousand viewers] increases that I’ve ever seen between upfront and scatter,” said Bob Cesa, executive VP, advertising sales, Twentieth Television.
One reason for syndication’s strength is that it has performed well with the new commercial ratings, called C3.
“What we’ve seen in syndication thus far, which is what we basically predicted, is it is the least-affected daypart, with much higher retention than network and certainly more than cable,” said Amy McMahon, assistant activation director at Starcom USA.
On the other hand, some syndicated shows have seen some ratings falloff on a live program basis from last year, she said. “So what that’s done is exacerbate and further tighten an already tight marketplace,”
Ms. McMahon said some syndicated shows are almost out of sale for the year, others for a quarter.
“Strangely enough, it’s not just the top-tier programs that you would think [would be sold out] from a demand basis,” she said. “In a lot of cases because it’s driven by some delivery issues, it’s some of the mid-tier programs where [the syndicators] may be really pulling a lot of their inventory in order to make good their upfront advertisers.”
But even with some ratings down, money is pouring in. Some may be overflow from broadcast, but it’s hard to tell.
“We’re seeing money coming in. They don’t tell us where it’s coming from often. We try to dissect it after the fact,” said Howard Levy, executive VP at Disney-ABC Domestic Television. “We’re grateful for it when it’s coming in and when it’s coming in we don’t sit there and ask a lot of questions.”
But Mr. Levy said one thing is clear.
“The people that bought upfront made a good decision,” he said. “In terms of pricing, in terms of guarantees, it was just a smart decision to go upfront.”
With the writers strike delaying pilot season and other factors, it’s unclear if the networks will hold their million-dollar upfront presentation in May, as usual, or whether buying for the 2008-09 television season will kick off in the spring, summer or fall.
“We are not impacted by the writers strike and it is my anticipation and hope that advertisers who have been taking notice of what we have to offer at Warner Bros. and in syndication will want to secure key placements regardless of whether there’s a traditional broadcast upfront or not,” Mr. Teicher said.
Although they’re a bit later to the party than their broadcast and cable colleagues, syndicators are getting more involved in product integration and digital sales.
“We’ve been in the branded entertainment business now for a couple of years,” said Mr. Teicher. “We believe it’s integral to not just our strategy, but to advertisers to help them navigate through what is a very cluttered environment these days and the challenges associated with DVR viewing.”
Ellen DeGeneres has been doing live commercials on her Warner Bros. show for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the Oral-B Triumph with SmartGuide toothbrush.
“And you will see more in the not too distant future,” Mr. Teicher said.
Twentieth’s “The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet” lends itself to integrations. During a week in flu season, the show featured a segment with Theraflu.
Mr. Cesa said clients really want brand integrations. “They want the product to be used, to be talked about, to be part of the program,” he said.
Disney’s “Live With Regis & Kelly” worked with Walgreen’s on a 3-D Halloween episode and now is working with the drugstore chain on expanding its “Beautiful Baby” feature.
In addition to being on-air, the promotion is online, where viewers can upload photos of their kids. The winner appears on the cover of Parenting magazine and gets a $125,000 grand prize, boosted from $10,000.
Mr. Teicher said his company’s digital business is beginning to account for meaningful revenues. “Certainly not nearly what TV accounts for, but enough to make a difference in our profitability.”
In addition to selling ad packages that integrate TV spots with ads on Web sites for “Ellen,” “Tyra” and Extra,” Warner Bros. has been launching digital business not associated with its shows, such as MomLogic. com, a site sponsored by Unilever.
Ad sales executive said the smaller number of advertisers going to NATPE was disappointing, but would not put a crimp in their business.
“We see every advertiser on an individual case basis anyway,” said Mr. Teicher. “Having said that, we are also strong advocates of any time you can get in front of your customers, that’s a good thing. “
Mr. Cesa said he prefers to sit down with clients “on their terms” rather than at NATPE.
While the studio probably has more people available to meet with clients at the convention, the opposite is true on the advertiser’s turf.
“They have a lot of people in the room, so they can answer or ask a lot of questions” instead of saying “I’ll have to get back to you,” Mr. Cesa said.
Ms. McMahon said Starcom will have a contingent at NATPE. “It’s still a great place to network and see people, and there’s going to be a lot of good panels there,” she said. “We still find value in it.”
Updated 2:30 to fix details of “Beautiful Baby” prize