Syndicators slowly moving ad sales

Upper, second tier programs selling at reduced rates

The syndication portion of the television upfront ad marketplace is quietly moving along, with sources saying about 25 percent of the major syndicators’ available inventory sold for the 2009-10 TV season.

Much like the deals being cut in the broadcast and cable upfront, every syndicator is selling inventory at reduced cost-per-thousand rates compared to last year's market. The so-called "upper tier" shows are said to be selling at -1 to -2 percent lower CPMs than last year, while the "second tier" shows are selling in the -7 to -9 percent range.

Syndication sales executives agree that while overall upfront ad dollar volume is going to be down compared to last year, based on registered media agency budgets the market is still robust considering the down economy.

And as is usually the case in syndication, demand for the top-tier content like "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (CBS Television Distribution), "Live with Regis & Kelly" (Disney-ABC Domestic Television) and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution) and sitcoms "Two and a Half Men" (WBDTD), "The Office" (NBC Universal Domestic Television) and "Family Guy" (20th Century Fox Television Distribution) is high.

"Demand for the top tier shows in syndication is surprisingly strong," said one syndication sales executive, who did not want to speak for attribution, "although that is not translating to great pricing because of the depressed market everywhere."

Syndication sales executives believe the strong demand is being helped by NBC offering "The Jay Leno Show" at 10 p.m. each weeknight in broadcast, taking five hours of drama out of the mix.

"Advertisers are looking to reach 18-34 year olds and Jay Leno skews older," said one syndication sales chief. "So we are benefiting with some increased demand by some advertisers looking to fill that void, particularly movie companies."

One area where the syndicators could be adversely affected is the pharmaceutical category, which targets older audiences. "Some of the game shows and other programming that skews older in syndication may see a loss of volume because of cutbacks by advertisers in this category," said one syndication sales exec. "But overall in syndication, it is pretty much going to follow the same pattern as years past."

The syndie sales heads are confident that their part of the upfront — syndication last year racked up around $2.4 billion — could be completed by the end of next week. "We're in active, serious negotiations with all the major media agencies, and that's our goal," said a representative for one syndicator.
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