Sunny days for syndicators

WB leading way in brisk upfront ad market

The overall TV syndication upfront sales marketplace is more than 50% complete, with one syndicator, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, more than 70% sold out of its 2008-09 ad inventory, according to buyers and sellers.

The studio sales teams are continuing to get 7%-9% cost-per-thousand increases for top-tier new and returning shows and 5%-7% for other programming, with daytime being the hot daypart.

"The Bonnie Hunt Show," from Warner Bros., has drawn a lot of buyer interest among the new daytime fare, as has "Deal or No Deal," NBC Universal Television Distribution's new half-hour version of NBC's primetime game show.

Among the off-network sitcoms, Warners' "Two and a Half Men" has been popular among buyers, as has Twentieth Television's "Family Guy." Among the newly available dramas, NBC Universal's "House" has garnered solid pricing.

One reason Warners is getting even better pricing for "Bonnie Hunt" is that many stations are pairing it on their schedules with another popular Warners talker, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

Disney-ABC Domestic Television's new syndicated version of "Wizard's First Rule" also is receiving much buyer interest.

CBS Television Distribution continues to get strong interest for "The Oprah Winfrey Show." One rival syndicator said that despite the smaller successes of some of the other daytime talkers, "Oprah is still the queen. She still moves product."

One new CBS show that has been in less demand, buyers said, is "The Doctors," a talk show featuring medical professionals that is being produced by the son of Phil McGraw, star of CBS Television Distribution's talker "Dr. Phil."

Syndicators are doing more deals in this upfront, incorporating product integrations into their packages, particularly with their talk and entertainment shows. NBC Uni has done some product integration deals for "Deal," while Warners has done some for "Ellen," "Bonnie Hunt" and "The Tyra Banks Show."

Particularly strong categories include packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, movies and fast food.

Syndicators are expected to sell higher levels of ad inventory, much like the broadcast networks, which could boost the total syndication upfront total to about $2.4 billion, up 4.5% from last year.