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Slow, Low Single-Digit Start To Syndie Upfront

What’s to blame for the soft syndication upfront just underway? One answer is the same one that contributed to the sluggish scatter marketplace of the last two quarters: a lack of hot shows, according to media buyers. The major syndicators echo some of what the buyers are saying, but they also are upbeat that ad demand will be strong for hit shows. And if the syndi upfront remains sluggish, syndicators say they’ll hold back some inventory, betting that the scatter market will be stronger.
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The syndicated TV upfront selling is underway — it began late last week — but it’s hardly the exciting, fast paced ad market of years past.

Media buyers have registered their clients’ budgets with syndicators who, in turn, are returning proposals to buyers, with little in the way of back-and-forth haggling or bickering.

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“We cut a few deals, but the best way to describe it is sluggish,” says Jason Kanefsky, EVP of strategic investments at Havas Media North America.

Some ad agencies say they haven’t finalized any syndicated TV deals.

As of yesterday afternoon, “nothing has moved for us yet,” says Tricia Wolfer, associate director of broadcast at Empower MediaMarketing. “We are sitting back and hanging tight.”

Dollar volume is widely expected to be slightly down from last year with cost-per-thousands (CPMs) up 5% or less year over year.

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“CPMs for high-end shows will be up by low single digits,” says Kanefsky. “I don’t think anything is cracking 5%, except maybe one or two shows. But, generally, I think CPMs will be up 1% to 3% or maybe 1% to 4%.”

What’s to blame for the soft upfront? One answer is the same one that contributed to the sluggish scatter marketplace of the last two quarters: a lack of hot shows.

“Syndication doesn’t have that much great stuff to sell,” Kanefsky says. “There isn’t a hot show. Katie Couric is finishing its [run] in year two. It didn’t have any juice behind it. There are a couple of good sitcoms. There are shows that we’ll eventually buy. But there’s no chase. When there’s no chase, there’s no market.”

The major syndicators echo some of what the buyers are saying about the upfront. But they also are upbeat that ad demand will be strong for hit shows like Steve Harvey from NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. Harvey will begin its third season in September.

NBCUniversal also has this fall’s highest-profile rookie talk show, the Meredith Vieira Show.

“We are selling Meredith Vieira with a lot of enthusiasm,” says Bo Argentino, SVP of advertising and media sales at NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. “People really respond to her because they respect her. They can tell that she’s talented, sincere and she is a great listener.”

Other shows debuting this fall include Debmar-Mercury’s off-cable sitcom Anger Management and its game show Celebrity Name Game. Warner Bros. has talk show The Real while CBS Television Distribution is debuting court show Hot Bench.

Meantime, Warner Bros.’ long-running talk show Ellen is in high demand as is the syndicator’s top-rated off-network sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

There was significant demand for Ellen in first and second quarter scatter, according to media buyers. The show had its most-watched season ever and tied for its best season ever with a 1.7 among women 25-54, up 6% over last year. It ranked No. 3 among all talk shows.

Warner Bros.’ Big Bang Theory, while down 20% year to year, is by far the No. 1 off-network sitcom with a 3.2 adult 18-49 rating, 0.5 points ahead of its nearest competitor. That is Twentieth Television’s Modern Family, which is No. 2 among all sitcoms in its first year in broadcast syndication.

“Shows like Ellen, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family will go fast,” says another seller.

Syndication also has in-demand hour-long dramas that usually air on weekends.

“Many of our clients look at our programs as an alternative to primetime,” says Argentino. “Those agencies look to off-network sitcoms and hours like Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Law & Order: SVU. They compare well to network primetime [ratings], but they’re much more efficient.”

Typically, about 75% of the upcoming TV season’s commercial time is booked in the syndication upfront. In 2013, for the full year, advertisers spent $5.2 billion on syndicated TV, according to ad-tracking firm Kantar Media.

Media buyers and sellers say there are a few ad categories that are strong in this year’s syndication upfront, notably consumer packaged goods and pharmaceuticals.

“Pharmaceutical is always strong, especially on [CBS Television Distribution’s] Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy,” Kanefsky says. “The wireless companies have a lot of money. But you don’t see much movie money.”

Ad salespeople say other strong categories include financial (a small but growing ad category), insurance and retail.

“The auto category is down, although we don’t heavily depend on that,” says an ad salesperson.

The syndication upfront, as it does most years, is moving alongside the network TV and cable upfronts.

“Once it goes, it’s a small market, so it can go quickly,” Kanefsky says. “It’s just a matter of agreeing on prices and getting deals done.”

Most years, the roughly $9 billion network TV upfront wraps up first and fast, often in just a few days.

However, this year, the network TV upfront is dragging. That’s due in part to some buyers and sellers switching the currency used in negotiations from C3 ratings — commercial ratings that include live viewing and three days of DVR playback, to C7 ratings that cover seven days.

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tjxx Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Syndicators are the Willie Lomans of sales executives!!!
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 22, 2016
  • 1.
    4.0/14
  • 2.
    1.7/6
  • 3.
    1.3/5
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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