CYNOPSIS MEDIA Presents: UPFRONT with 20th TELEVISION
By Randee Dawn
Innovation tends not to be a watchword when it comes to syndication – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Amid a stormy, unsettled media landscape (digital incursions, platform fragmentation, changing viewer habits) syndication is one of the few bulwarks of safety and stability for advertisers, station owners and viewers alike.
But that doesn’t mean a distributor like 20th TV media sales isn’t bucking that trend. This upfront season, the home to some of syndication’s most consistent, longest-running properties (including Family Feud, Modern Family and The Wendy Williams Show) is highlighting their new series: Page Six TV, a show for pop culture junkies that’s ideal for amplified brand integrations and set to benefit as many members of the Fox family as possible.
"Page Six is already a brand consumers are familiar with," says 20th TV EVP Media Sales Michael Teicher of the first run strip, a multi-person panel show that is nearly fully cleared across the county. "You’ll see aggressive marketing on behalf of all the companies involved, and it’ll be a good show that’s differentiated in its genre. It’s a great opportunity for advertisers and stations."
As the new original program on 20th’s list this year – it’s no surprise that Page Six TV is being used as the frame for their roadshow buyer presentations (Teicher estimates they have approximately 250 meetings with brands and advertisers on this year’s tour, which kicked off in February).
But it’s what’s under the hood that makes Page Six TV so intriguing: The show is an amalgam of Twenty-first Century Fox partners and related businesses, from the News Corp.-owned Post to producers EndemolShine NorthAmerica. Naturally, 20th TV is doing the handoff to buyers.
"We need to find new revenue streams and innovate with our advertising partners to go beyond the common CPM and impressions statistics," says Teicher. "It’s a challenge we all still continue to face and we have more effective marketing opportunities for advertisers – especially in shows like Wendy Williams."
Additionally, Page Six is attractive for what the show can offer advertisers: a rotating panel open to tie in with an appropriate partner. "That fourth slot is wide open," says Teicher. "You can have a star from a TV show, or one from a movie that’s coming out, for example. If this works, it could be the progenitor of other opportunities."
A new way of monetizing programming is something everyone in the industry is hungry to discover. Ratings across the board – regardless of distributor – are more likely to be diminishing than increasing, and fragmenting rather than coalescing.
Of course, it can be challenging to find space for fresh, original content. "There’s not a lot of opportunities in the broadcast syndication distribution stream available now," says Katz Media‘s EVP, Strategy, Analytics and Research, Stacey Lynn Schulman. "20th is in a strong place right now because they have key properties in off-net half-hour sitcoms, like Modern Family, and young skewing sitcoms How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and that’s huge. A half-hour timeslot for a show that’s also on network television at the same time – that’s gold."
There’s also the issue of young viewers, who are watching less TV than older audiences: 40 percent of 18-24s time is now spent either on streaming or away from the TV screen, according to MarketingCharts.com. Digital isn’t going to save anybody’s bacon any time soon either, not since revelations in recent years indicated that those pushing it hardest had no idea how to measure impressions. Additionally, recent safety concerns about brands being aligned with objectionable online content is top of mind for marketers.
That leaves 20th to push its many strengths, which include Last Man Standing. Reruns of the show, which went off-net in 2015, have shown growth across all demos since the premiere; and even during the end of 2016 Debmar-Mercury‘s Family Feud was one of the few series to show a viewer increase, up 5 percent over the previous year. By customizing each of their 250-plus roadshow presentations, 20th is hoping advertisers in categories like mobile and auto will see the value in those kinds of numbers.
Recently top advertisers like Fox Films, Burlington, and Amazon have seen the value of integrating their brands into Wendy Williams.
And overall, industry experts believe that 20th is maintaining its superiority in the syndication field. "They’ve been around a long time, and they are very aggressive with product integrations," says Rob Russo, president and CEO of RNR Media Consulting.
Katz’ Schulman praises other areas as well: "They’ve been traditionally good at marketing their content, and good partners with stations, and they’re trying new things with millennials," she says. "It’s laudable to be trying new things, because it’s expensive to make original programming – and you don’t know where it’s going to go."
Therein lies the rub: rallying the various divisions of one company to come together on a project like Page Six could be "the start of a new model” says Teicher. But Schulman sees an upside. "This is a more sophisticated way of creating a show," she says. "And if the deregulatory mood continues in the U.S., you’re probably going to see a lot more strange bedfellows at the party."
Right now, the party is just getting started at 20th.
"TV is not dead," says Horizon Media‘s SVP, Director, Video Investment Kate Monaghan. "Viewership is changing, and people are watching differently. We don’t see any brands completely leaving TV. You just have to make sure you have diversity in your buy. If you’ve got that, there’s always going to be a place for syndication in the live viewing experience."