06/23/20: Cynopsis Special Edition: 2020 Upfront Syndication Report



Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read
Tuesday June 23, 2020

Cynopsis Special Edition: 2020 Upfront Syndication Report
Cathy Applefeld Olson

Sometimes being the steady, dependable one in the room can be not only gratifying but downright sexy. In a year where unpredictability is the sole constant, the syndication market may just prevail as an unsung hero in the midst of massive disruption.

With proven street cred and reliable tune-in, syndicated fare has the opportunity to bubble up during a year when brands will continue to come to market at vastly different intervals and with different goals. The concept of a traditional Upfront season is being turned on its head. At the same time, the syndicated market last year experienced a flourish of new first-run shows. From mid-September through mid-December 2019, advertising in the top 10 syndicated shows reached $335 million in advertising, according to iSpotTV data.

NBC Television Distribution’s The Kelly Clarkson Show, the most-watched freshman first-run syndicated program with an average 1.8 million daily viewers, landed at No. 11 and brought in $17 million in advertising during its first three months on air.

As with just about everything in the year of covid-19, current circumstances are accelerating trends already in motion in the television sector. For syndication, that’s meant a swifter move from sidecar status to a more prominent role among media companies’ main-course offerings to advertisers. And the market is poised for another set of star power-driven shows with CBS Television Distribution’s The Drew Barrymore Show and Debmar-Mercury’s Nick Cannon ready to head out of the gate.



Unparalleled freshman lineup: The Kelly Clarkson Show and Judge Jerry
both with 100% DMA coverage and coming back for Season Two.

NBCU Syndication garnered 9 Daytime Emmy® Award nominations:
The Kelly Clarkson Show (7), Maury (1) and Access Hollywood (1)

Check out the full programming slate HERE
The Steve Wilkos Show, Law & Order: SVU, Dateline and more.

Market Moves
“What is happening in the syndication market is representative of more broad-scale shifts in the media advertising ecosystem,” says Laura Molen, president of advertising sales and partnerships at NBCU. “Two major trends were accelerated by covid-19: Marketers need to do even more with less, and consumers are looking for great content wherever they can find it.”

NBCU earlier this year launched One Platform, a way for marketers to scale their efforts to reach key audiences via targeting, data and expanded creative outlets. Syndicated series—including longtime shows like Access Hollywood and its other 2019 launch, Judge Jerry—sit prominently among the mix.

“By adding syndication into our offering, we’re able to provide yet another valuable opportunity for reach, efficiency and unique integration opportunities that connect with viewers,” Molen says. “And we’re creating a true one-stop-shop for marketers looking to create real impact in a sea of hard-to-navigate platforms and acquisitions.”

Disney annexed the Twentieth Television syndicated roster last spring, a move that brought animated fare like Bob’s Burgers into the family with Disney Television Distribution library content including Live With Kelly and Ryan and Tamron Hall, which launched last year.

“From an overall perspective, the syndication market continues to be an important piece of what we do,” Rita Ferro, Disney president of advertising sales and partnerships, tells Cynopsis. “Because of the Fox acquisition, we have quite a large syndication portfolio of shows we manage.”

Especially this calendar year, when brands are trying to figure out the impact of the disruption, Ferro says syndication is a strong sell. “Syndication has always been a market that very much moves after the network marketplace, but we move it as part of our marketplace. We bring syndication along to advertisers as part of the total solution—linear networks, streaming and digital platforms, and our syndication platforms together. It is part of the package.”



Great content, reach, efficiency and unique flexibility

NBCU Syndication now offers enhanced products as part of One Platform, a true one-stop shop for marketers to connect with viewers and
consumers with premium NBCU video at scale.

The Covid Factor
“Prior to this incredibly unique time, we were enjoying an incredible rebirth of production with Kelly Clarkson and Tamron Hall’s shows last year, and Nick Cannon and Drew Barrymore this year,” says Ira Bernstein, co-president of Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury. “Now, with Covid, and as we move into the post-Covid era, there are obviously new changes coming that we will have to navigate.”

Last April Debmar-Mercury moved its national barter advertising sales operation to CTD from Twentieth Television, adding Wendy Williams, court show Caught in Providence and Steve Harvey-starring Family Feud to the CTD library including
Judge Judy, Dr. Phil, Inside Edition and Jeopardy!

“Covid has been a ratings boost for us,” says Scott Trupchak, who heads ad sales at CTD. “People watch our shows live… they’re not recording. If they miss it on a Tuesday, they watch another original on Wednesday. And that really is powerful to advertisers because they want their message to be reached at a particular time. And that’s something we really can provide them with.”

The disruption of the past several months has accelerated innovation, Trupchak notes. “A huge part of our business is beyond the traditional 30 [second spot.] We work very closely with brands within our shows. And for a number of them, we’re not in studio but we still are finding ways to integrate brands within our shows remotely, and that’s something we’ve never done before. We are still business as usual. We’ve found ways to adapt, and it’s working.”

“The pandemic has disrupted everything from production to scheduling to marketers’ investments. Yet it has given us an opportunity to be resourceful, creative, and innovative,” agrees Molen, who notes their ability to film from home is “turning our familiar personalities and celebrity icons into relatable friends and neighbors. And we’ve seen incredible turnkey solutions created during this time as a collaboration between producers, talent and sales alike… Audiences are willing to adapt with our hosts, embracing new formats and responding extremely positively to what we’ve been able to deliver them during this time.”


Running With First-Run
While off-network library content continues to hold a sizable portion of syndicated ad dollars—with more coming to the fore including S.W.A.T. and The Good Doctor, both due from Sony Pictures Television in 2021—the headlines of late are all about new first-run fare.

“High residuals and streaming have dramatically impacted the off net marketplace, though great dramas and classic sitcoms continue to perform in broadcast even when shared on multiple platforms,” says Bo Argentino SVP, ad sales and partnerships at NBCU TV Distribution.

Though Debmar-Mercury’s Bernstein notes, “We are always under incredible pressure to develop and produce a talk show that can quickly establish a foothold with viewers and offer a unique voice,” the company is betting big this season on Cannon. The show, which it’s producing and distributing, thus far has been cleared in 95 percent of the country on station groups including Fox, CBS, Sinclair, Hearst and Tegna.

“Nick is multi-talented, and is looking to make it into a fun and entertaining hub for his comedy, knowledge of pop culture and celebrity interviews,” Bernstein says. “We will be announcing more details as we move closer to launch but I can tell you it will be a day-and-date talk show based out of New York and will be sold on a cash-plus-barter basis.”

CTD is similarly enthusiastic about its Barrymore launch. “It’s very hard to break through, and when you have a mega-star like Drew, that definitely helps,” says CTD’s Trupchak. “The show is very brand-friendly, and the timing ironically couldn’t be better for what she’s about—and that’s optimism. That’s what people really want right now, and it resonates well with brands. That’s what they want to be around. That’ been our sell.”

The newcomers continue the market’s first-run revival. NBCU’s Kelly Clarkson and Disney’s Tamron Hall are among a half-dozen shows launched last year that are headed back for a second season.

“We’re excited to bring the show back to market because now we have a baseline,” Ferro says of the Hall series. “She started and then we had covid, and she was one of the first to come back on air. That helps establish a cadence of audience, and yet at the same time the format was so different because it wasn’t with a studio audience.”

At NBCU, “when it comes to new programs, we want something that feels like it belongs and fills a need in the market,” says Argentino. “The challenge is to produce fresh, new syndicated programs that resonate and find real estate that reaches the right audience. Kelly Clarkson is universally loved and undeniably talented. Stations, critics, marketers and audiences all embraced her from the start, and we are so proud of the success she’s achieved in season one.”

Cynopsis Team

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director
Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Roberta Caploe

Cynopsis Ad Sales
Mike Farina

Albert Nassour

Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
Trish Pihonak
Director of Operations


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