Cynopsis Media presents:
Upfront 2011 - The Kids!
Good morning. It's Tuesday, March 22, 2011, and this is your this is the first installment of this special five-part series on this year's Upfront season.
Kids Upfront 2011: CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ... BUT QUESTIONS REMAIN
By Daisy Whitney
Buoyed by both the growth in non-endemic advertisers and ad dollars from new toy marketers, kids television networks are cautiously optimistic about their upfront selling season that's just begun to kick off. After a rocky few years, the major players in the kids market say the ad business has stabilized and the fallout from the regulations on food marketing to kids has been absorbed. Agency experts largely agree, and they too are expecting a stable upfront business for kids. That should set the tone for the rest of the upfront ad buying and selling, since the cable, syndication and broadcast markets often mirror the kids market in dips and rises.
Perhaps even more important is that the recession appears firmly in the rear-view window. "There is a pretty good balance right now between supply and demand," said Todd Gordon, SVP and Managing Director of National Broadcast at Initiative.
Hopeful Networks and Agencies
The ad market will be up over last year, predicted Jim Perry, EVP of 360 Brand Sales, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group. Sure, he's usually bold, but he has specific reasons for his optimism. "For the first time in many years all the endemic categories in kids will be up," he said, noting that the toy category in particular has been rising on the strength of new money from mid-tier toy companies making buys for the first time. In addition, all the networks are recording sales in new categories. "We will have the strongest kids market ever and will see revenue growth well into the double digits," Perry said.
Similarly, Cartoon Network executive John O'Hara, General Sales Manager and EVP of Cartoon Network Ad Sales and Marketing, said he expects 2011 will be the strongest upfront of the last three years. "It's a combination of the economy improving, a relatively strong performance in fourth quarter retail and the movie business will be strong in the fourth quarter for 2011," he said adding that more kids movies will be released in the fall and into the holiday season, meaning studios will be spending to market their new flicks.
Ad buyers won't peg the market in advance, but they also have said they're expecting a healthy showing in kids. "Last year's upfront in general was stronger and kids fell along with that," said Jackie Kulesza, SVP Video Investment Director at Starcom. "Also, the scatter has come along throughout the year and has been steady so moving into next year we'll see a normal marketplace in terms of who returns and money spent."
The Hub and Disney also say they are expecting a strong, solid market.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM THE HUB
Source: Nielsen, 10/10/10-2/27/11, Co-viewing in NPower, L+7
Food and Toy
But questions remain. It's unclear whether the food category will ever be as healthy, no pun intended, as it was five years ago before the concerns over childhood obesity set in. To be sure, many food makers have reformulated their products and shifted dollars toward healthier products, but the level of marketing money from food manufacturers is lower than it was in the salad days.
The market has adjusted though. "There has been a real contraction in that part of the market and it's fair to say most of that contraction has now been taken out of the market because it happened years ago," said Gordon.
Because of that stabilization, networks expect a small rise in food dollars, though not a return to the previous highs. Any food category growth will likely be modest, said O'Hara. "We are now at the point where it's possible some of the money will come back," he said.
However, the good news is new toy makers are showing up at the table, adding to the already robust fourth quarter most networks experienced in that category. Mid-size toy Companies such Cepia, Blip and Wild Planet have entered the market and become strong ad partners, Perry said. Agency buyers also have noted this trend, as have the other networks.
Despite the cautious optimism, network executives aren't beating their chests. They understand that the kids market is dominated by a handful of players and by three main categories. In addition, the kids market is highly cyclical with fourth quarter, back-to-school and pre-Easter being sell-out times of year. Third quarter is growing more vital for the kids market and there's more demand and pressure for ratings points as early as July as well for back to school shopping, said Darcy Bowe, Associate Media Director at Starcom.
Networks, however, want to make sure other times of year are must-haves too. "Monetizing the rest of the week is a different proposition than the high-demand periods," O'Hara said. "To do that, you have to grow your business in non-endemic categories."
For Cartoon, that also means growing in women and moms. Cartoon sold Sears and Kids Foot Locker on sponsorships for its 2011 Hall of Game Awards, as examples. Ad partners for its Saturday Night Flicks include Domino's, Walmart and multiple movie studies, said Stuart Snyder, President and COO, Turner Animation, Young Adults & Kids Media. He added that Cartoon continues to skew to boys, but it still very inclusive of girls.
Perry said Nickelodeon's revenue from non-endemic advertisers grew 40% in the last upfront with the network adding three new auto advertisers in Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors. In addition, the network has brought on recent new advertisers in the last few years including insurance firms State Farm and Nationwide, retailers such as Kmart, and travel companies such as Marriott and Cayman Islands.
Those dollars are flowing to broadcast networks too. "There's a trend towards 'non-endemic' advertising homemakers, people looking to buy cars, families," said Dan Barnathan, President of Ad Sales at 4Kids Entertainment. "All this potentially adult money will continue to grow and become a significant part of the kids marketplace."
Disney especially has been pushing its co-viewing message to advertisers and marketers, and that will be a cornerstone of the network's messaging during this selling season. "On the co-viewing side we have seen our business grow and develop in auto and telecom because of the strong co-viewing audience and we think this is an area of tremendous opportunity," said Rita Ferro, Executive Vice President of Disney Media Sales and Marketing, adding that for 2011 to-date, Disney XD and Disney Channel rank #1 and #2 in co-viewing among women 18-49 and kids 6-14 in cable primetime.
While the big three cable networks dominate the kids landscape, The Hub is knocking on marketers' doors and has already landed 90 advertisers. The network plans to hold a series of upfront dinners in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. "We are an emerging network and we recognize that. We have to be very nimble and creative and facile with advertisers," said Margaret Loesch, CEO and President of The Hub, a Discovery-Hasbro joint venture. The network's message is that its programming is built on a nostalgic brands with shows such as the original Fraggle Rock and My Little Pony. "We are aiming to deliver the beloved brands," she said.
The network will need to keep growing ratings points and distribution; it is currently available in 60 million homes.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE
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Daisy Whitney for Cynopsis
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