Cynopsis Media presents:
Upfront 2011 - The
Good morning. It's Tuesday, April 19, 2011, and this is your this is the first installment of this special five-part series on this year's Upfront season.
SYNDICATION UPFRONT: CAN A HEALTHIER ECONOMY COMBINED WITH CURRENT/NEW SYNDICATED SERIES OVERRIDE THE LOSS OF OPRAH?
By Daisy Whitney
In one corner is the Big Bang Theory. In the other corner is the absence of Oprah.
Which one will be stronger? And with a better economy, a robust scatter market, and enviable demographics in general for syndication, does it matter?
The syndication upfront market has all the potential to be a promising one, given the launch of new off-network sitcoms into syndication like the super-popular Big Bang Theory and the upscale 30 Rock, as well as original shows like the new Anderson Cooper program.
But the big question remains - will these new offerings make up for the loss of the once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon of an Oprah Winfrey, whose show will no longer be on the roster for ad buyers in this year's upfront? Some buyers say the exit of Oprah may mean fewer dollars in general for syndication because marketers will look outside of syndication to replace those ratings points. Other experts say advertisers will replace the 25-54 female demo that Winfrey drew with syndicated fare.
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM WARNER BROS. MEDIA SALES
The Oprah Effect
"Oprah is one of the keystones of the syndicated marketplace. How do you replace that money?" said Anne Elkins, SVP and Group Client Director at Mediavest. "There hasn't been any programming in my mind yet that can replace her as a celebrity. There is Ellen and she will have some increased demand, and some other talk shows may try to take some of those dollars as well, but it's really hard to replace those GRPs. It will have to be an across-the-board search to replace that kind of exposure. You can't look for it in just one area."
She added that marketers are currently developing their strategies to handle the loss of Winfrey, but many will replace the money across various mediums. "I don't think there is a way to avoid the dollars going down."
Studios disagree. CBS, Oprah's syndicated home, declined to comment for this story, but other studios are less wary about the impact."Overall dollars aren't up or down because of one show," said Ira Bernstein, Co-President of Debmar-Mercury. "Marketers don't say 'Let's spend less or more because there is Oprah.' They have their media objective whether or not there is this one show." Plus, advertisers who have relied on Oprah chose it in part because it's been a solid daytime delivery vehicle for women 25-54. Most cable networks don't program originals for daytime, so advertisers would be hard pressed to find the audience they seek there, he said. Plus, the talk show genre is strong, up 12% for the season-to-date in women 25-54, the Syndicated Network Television Association said.
"While Oprah was certainly the leader in talk, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are both doing well, and Judge Judy continues to lead the court pack," said David Hutchinson, Executive VP Program Operations and Digital Media at PPI Releasing, a television syndication company. "Magazine formats, like Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition and Access Hollywood will also continue to be popular with celebrity-hungry viewers and like-minded advertisers, while similarly rated off-network and off-cable sitcoms and dramas will continue to flow into the syndication marketplace, so long as margins remain acceptable."
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM NBCUniversal TELEVISION DISTRIBUTION ADVERTISING & MEDIA SALES
Winfrey's exit also comes at a good time, given the strength of the TV ad economy. "The current scatter market for syndication is up roughly 25% over last year, and a healthier economy, with renewed spending from key categories, like automotive, finance, consumer packaged goods and retail, could make for a record syndie upfront, despite the departure of Oprah," Hutchinson said.
"There is plenty of reason to be optimistic because of how the market has played itself out in scatter, and with the chance to bring out new shows like Big Bang Theory and Anderson Cooper, we are certainly optimistic," said Michael Teicher, EVP of Media Sales for Warner Bros Domestic Television Distribution. Ad deals haven't been inked for either show, but he expects Anderson Cooper to sell well against consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, health and beauty and also in automotive, as well as other categories. Big Bang Theory should do well across the board. Both shows will be helped by the fact that Warner's syndicated shows are viewed live 91% of the time, which bodes well for time-sensitive advertisers, Teicher said. Syndicated shows are more DVR-proof in general than broadcast and cable shows.
In general though, syndication is poised to benefit from a strong economy just as are the kids, cable and broadcast markets. "It is a healthy market," Bernstein said. "If the buyers are saying it might be high single digits and the sellers are saying it'll be mid-teens, even if I lose I win. Different shows will command a range of CPMs, but even on the low-end high single digits is very healthy." Debmar-Mercury is bringing a new show to market in the Jeremy Kyle Show and will also return with South Park, Family Feud, a third season of the Wendy Williams show, and sitcoms in Tyler Perry's House of Payne and Meet the Browns.
Sony isn't launching any new shows, but will return with The Dr. Oz Show and Nate Berkus in first run, as well as stalwarts like Seinfeld and King of Queens in off-net.
NBC Universal is hoping to scoop up some of those dollars for its returning first run shows like Access Hollywood, the Chris Matthews Show and Maury as well as new off-network entrants, most notably 30 Rock. The show is averaging a 2.0 season to date for adults 18 to 49, with a 2.3 for original episodes, but the show does attract a higher-end demographic. "30 Rock and The Office reach upscale, young adult and male viewers and advertisers are always looking for that audience," said Bo Argentino, Senior Vice President, Advertising & Media Sales, NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution. "Engagement for those shows is strong, meaning more frequent viewing and audiences staying tuned-in for the commercials. Both highly over-index on upscale viewers. That bodes well for [30 Rock] in syndication."
In addition, syndication has always been a good alternative for large ratings points for specific audiences, Elkins said.
The other plus is the syndicated market has broadened in the last few years. Studios can sell shows to broadcast groups, cable networks, and also to streaming sites. Companies like Amazon and Netflix are often now in the running when it comes to buying rights to carry shows in syndication for the first time.
"Given the dynamics of supply and demand for high rated hits - i.e. not a lot of them - syndication will not only benefit from a healthier upfront, it will also benefit from TV dollars that need to find homes beyond broadcast and cable. Despite an ever fractionalizing media landscape, which has no doubt contributed to falling ratings for all forms of television, television is still the best way for marketers to reach the largest simultaneous audience available," Hutchinson said.
This Upfront 2011 Special Edition and all future Special Editions from Cynopsis Media are available to read or download after publishing here.
Daisy Whitney for Cynopsis
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