Big Bucks for 'Oprah' Sendoff
CBS Television Distribution says it is getting "record dollars" in upfront for daytime star's final syndicated shows
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/18/2010 12:01:00 PM
Sources say syndicators, who like others in TV took a licking last year, are seeing 15% to 20% more volume than last year. Prices for the most attractive syndicated shows are up about 9%.
Some sales executives say that after initial deals were reached on pricing some buyers were returning with additional money to buy more commercials.
Demand is said to be particularly strong in daytime, where broadcast networks have been cutting back and cable offers little original programming.
"Daytime was healthy," said Bo Argentino, senior VP, advertising and media sales, at NBC Universal Television Distribution. "It's the most efficient daypart, and syndication does it better than anyone else."
NBCU's daytime shows include Maury, The Jerry Springer Show and The Steve Wilkos Show, all of which showed ratings increases last season.
"It's so much easier to sell a returning show when you have a track and it's positive and its growing," Argentino said.
NBCU has also been selling a different type of show in daytime--Bravo's Real Housewives franchise. Argentino says it's been well received.
According to ad buyers, CBS Television Distribution (CTD) has been seeking big price hikes in the upfront market for commercials in The Oprah Winfrey Show, and is looking for "crazy numbers" for spots in her final episode in September 2011--several times the $100,000 per 30 seconds some advertisers already pay.
Numbers ranging from $500,000 up to $1 million are being bandied about on the advertising grapevine for spots on the final broadcast.
One buyer said that after feeling out the market, CTD might have decided not to sell some of the commercials for the final week of Oprah during the upfront, and instead to wait and watch demand and pricing grow as the daytime queen takes her victory lap.
CTD says spots are moving quickly.
"Oprah's a legend of the likes we'll probably never see again on television, so there's a real excitement and frenzy around The Oprah Winfrey Show's final season," said a CTD spokesperson. "Advertisers realize that this is their last chance to be part of history, so ad time for the final season, final week and final episode are selling at a rapid pace and for record dollars. Everyone wants to jump on board for what will be a momentous TV milestone."
CTD is justifying higher prices for Oprah by estimating that ratings will be up considerably from last year for the farewell tour. It is also pushing for rate increases that are bigger than the 9% other top syndicated properties have been commanding in the upfront.
Prices for commercials are based on the size of the audience times a cost per thousand viewers (CPM) that varies from show to show and from broadcast to cable to syndication.
It's not unusual for networks to seek premium prices by turning the last episode of long-running, beloved shows into an event.
ABC reportedly sought between $850,000 and $950,000 for a spot in the finale of Lost, a 400% increase from its normal price. When Everybody Loves Raymond went off the air in 2005, CBS sold spots for about $1.3 million. NBC put huge ticket prices on commercials when two of its biggest hits signed off, getting $1.5 million to $2.3 million for spots in the last episode of Friends in 2004 and $1.4 million to $1.8 million for the 1998 Seinfeld finale.
One senior buyer didn't think that the price for the Oprah finale should approach how much Lost cost, mostly because spots on Lost started out twice as expensive as Oprah's. The buyer added that Oprah's ratings were down 6% last year and that despite CBS's projections, it's not clear that the final season will lure enough viewers to reverse the trend.
But Don Seaman, VP and director of communication analysis at media buyer MPG, notes that "specials in general are up. They will make this into a special event because it's Oprah. And there are a limited amount of big deals in TV."
Seaman noted that in her final week, Oprah's likely to have special guests that will attract crowds, just as Johnny Carson did when he left The Tonight Show. More recently, Conan O'Brien's ratings jumped in his last week as the host of Tonight.
"That last week [of Oprah], I'm sure it's going to be big," he said.
Advertisers also flock to the Oprah brand. Her endorsement is coveted and products shown on her show-or given away to the audience, like the Pontiac G6 sedans in 2004-become big sellers.
"That's Oprah's seal of approval. I don't see a down side to that," Mr. Seaman said.
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