04/16/15: Cynopsis Media Presents: Syndication Market



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Cynopsis Media Presents: Syndication Market
04.16.15

By Rod Granger

As advertisers and program suppliers head into the 2015 syndication upfront, they’ll find a gradually improving economy, but also a continuing slowdown of growth in their marketplace amid an increasingly fragmented media landscape. So, the prevailing question becomes:

Is flat the new up?

Syndication has been arguably the softest segment of the TV business for the past two years,” said Jon Swallen, Chief Research Officer at KantarMedia North America. One reason for this is that packaged goods, which have a bigger presence in syndication than other TV forums, have been cutting back on ad buys at a faster rate than other categories, Swallen told Cynopsis.

Syndication ad spending in 2014 was up a fractional 0.6 percent over 2013, totaling a virtually identical $5.2 billion, only slightly above the 0.5 percent rise between 2013 and 2012.

Fourth quarter 2014 ad revenue was actually down  -3.3 percent from the same 2013 period, which showed a +1.6 percent growth, said Swallen.

Many media observers point to 2015 as a “transition” year, in which the industry recharges its batteries, seeks new breakout hits, and takes stock of syndication’s evolving role in the transforming media environment.

“I think marketers are taking a wait and see approach,” said Brad Adgate, Senior VP of Research for Horizon Media, whose clients include GEICO and Weight Watchers.

“Content drives excitement,” said Stacey Lynn Schulman, Executive VP of Strategy and Analytics, Katz Media Group, and “we just don’t have a lot of new content.”

There are, however, three new first-run shows which are generating a high buzz factor, each driven by “needs or desires on the part of the stations,” said Bill Carroll, Vice President/Director of Content Strategy, Katz Television Group.


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Crime Time

“We see Crime Watch Daily as filling a need in the marketplace that’s not being met,” said John O’Hara, Executive Vice President for Warner Bros. Brand Networks.Cleared in 95% of the country, the show is positioned as an early fringe companion to local news. “Crime, mystery,and drama have been so successful in the prime and cable landscape, and we don’t think that need is being served in the syndication marketplace,” O’Hara said.

Gearing Up for Fab

The F.A.B. Life, a lifestyle show from Disney-ABC Television co-hosted by Tyra Banks, Chrissy Teigen, Joe Zee, Lauren Makk, and Leah Ashley, currently cleared in 86% of the country, “fills the void that the ABC 0&0s had when Katie Couric went away,” Carroll said. 

“There are very few syndicated lifestyle shows out there," said Irv Schulman, Senior Vice President, Syndication, for the Disney/ABC Television Group. The F.A.B. Life is different in that it’s “all-encompassing, meaning DIY, food, fashion, and social, which is a big part of the show,” he said.

It’s also a prominent example of the syndication market’s current proclivity for panel shows, “which are working better than most [genres] in daytime television,” said Schulman.

“Panel shows do seem to be working fairly well,” said Catherine Warburton, Chief Investment Officer for Assembly, the MDC Media Partners media agency group. “One of the nice things about them is you’re not dependent on one personality carrying the whole show, which, as we’ve seen, can be sort of risky.”

NBCUniversal’s Crazy Talk, hosted by Tanisha Thomas and Ben Aaron, currently cleared in 80% of the country, “is a perfect match between supply and demand,” said Bo Argentino, Senior Vice President, Advertising and Media Sales for NBCUniversal TV Distribution.

The Broadcast to Syndication Sitcom Pipeline

Shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and Anger Management continue to draw audiences but in terms of new sitcoms, “it’s been a relatively sparse genre lately,” said Adgate.

The most anticipated sitcom for 2015 is Warner Bros.’ 2 Broke Girls, which is expected to fill access and late fringe time periods. “We’ve had a lot of success over the years with CBS sitcoms that come into syndication,” said O’Hara, “including Bang, Two and a Half Men, and Mike & Molly.”

Other comedy programs looking to make a splash in the syndication pool include Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, reruns of which will air on Fox stations in late-night and other berths, through a deal with Debmar-Mercury and Comedy Central. The show is expected to be cleared across the country at launch.

“Comedy Central approached us about taking it out, and we have a great relationship with them; we started the company with South Park,” said Ira Bernstein, co-president of Debmar-Mercury.

Debmar’s Wendy Williams continues to grow. “It has established itself as an overall player,” confirmed Carroll.Celebrity Name Game, hosted by Craig Ferguson, has been renewed for a second season, yet exemplifies the need for patience and perseverance when launching a show in today’s crowded marketplace.

“Starting out it’s always tough; we did some proprietary research that showed that everybody likes it but no one knows it’s on,” said Bernstein, “However, we’ve shown some real growth from November to February."

“I think what you’re seeing now is a willingness, especially with the influence of social media, to give some time for a show to breathe and to catch on; that’s ultimately helping,” said Michael Teicher, Executive Vice President, Media Sales, Twentieth Television.

Bench Press

Over at CBS Television Distribution, Hot Bench, the three judge panel show from Judge Judy Sheindlin’s Queen Bee Productions, has been renewed for a second season, and led the pack in new syndicated shows, with a 1.7 hh rating this year to date and averaging 2.3 million viewers. As for Judge Judy herself, she continues to lead the court show pack, and has extended her deal with CTD through 2020.

Other shows set to return include NBC Television Distribution’s Meredith Vieira, and Warner Bros. panel show The Real. Sony Pictures Television is “reintroducing into the marketplace” viral video show RightThisMinute, distributed by MGM Television, said Stuart Zimmerman, Executive Vice President, U.S. Advertiser Sales for SPT. The show was picked up by Fox stations in 10 markets and is currently cleared in 90% of the country.

On the game show front, Family Feud, produced by FremantleMedia North America and distributed by Debmar-Mercuy, continues to show strong growth, while CTD’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy lead the category. In talk, CTD’s Dr. Phil, Disney-ABC Domestic Television’s Live With Kelly & Michael, and Warner Bros. Brand Network’ Ellen DeGeneres top the list. In magazines, CTD’s Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition hold the top two spots.

Looking Ahead

Above and beyond the mechanics of the upfront, programmers and advertisers alike are grappling with the realignment of their businesses in the new digital, multi-screen world, and even with the concept and definition of “syndication” itself.

“I wish that [the word] could be wiped from the media language,” said Irv Schulman. “It really is all about programming.”

“I really don’t care for the word syndication when referring to our first-run shows,” agreed Paul Montoya, President of Media Sales, CBS Television Distribution. “Our shows are more than linear TV  they are multiplatform brands. I like being in the business of selling great brands.”

Whatever you call it, and despite the challenges, all agree that the model continues to give advertisers the biggest bang for their buck.

"It’s a reality that advertisers need to add digital to their media mix, but they shouldn’treplace television with it,” said Teicher. “It’s a fragmented world, we understand that, but when you’re trying to reach the greatest number of people with the best reach, television is the strongest option.”

“Our business is hugely important for the stations,” said Argentino. “It’s a really great opportunity for advertisers to get closer to the shows, to do really meaningful integration.”

“Syndication has always brought fairly efficient reach, and that’s really why advertisers purchase it and add it to their program mix,” added Warburton.

Audiences will continue to consume content in different ways, at different times, through different distribution channels, but a key advantage for advertisers is that “our shows aren’t time delayed: 95%+ of our viewing takes place live,” said O’Hara. “In an evolving market we become that much more valuable because we’re a safe bet,” he adds, “and it makes syndication sexy because of it.”


Roberta Caploe: Editorial Director @robertacaploe
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group 

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