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Flat upfront looms

Cross-platform selling helps transcend kids programming 3/04/2001 07:00:00 PM Eastern

For the second year in a row, buyers and sellers are expecting a flat kids upfront market, which is expected to garner between $775 million and $800 million in spending commitments from advertisers. The bulk of the market will probably move sometime in late April, as in the past couple of years.

This year's market is changing in ways that reflect what's going on in the broader TV market. Cross-platform selling-a concept still germinating in the broader market-has become an integral part of the kids market. All the major players-including Viacom, Disney and Fox-are selling multimedia packages, which almost always include an Internet component with some mix of network, cable, radio, TV and print. Now, more than ever, the kids buy is more than just about eyeballs; it's about marketing and promotion as well, executives say.

"The market has really transcended," says Joe Uva, president of Turner Entertainment Group Sales and Marketing. "It's not just a TV buy anymore but more about an overarching relationship with kids and the convergence between programming and promotion opportunities-on-air and off-air, online and off-line."

The name of the game now, says Uva, is linking as many "kids touch points" as possible. For Turner, now part of AOL, those touch points are numerous and include the Cartoon Network, Cartoon.com, AOL Kids channels, print vehicles, such as Time for Kids, and even co-owned Kids WB.

Kids WB, the top-rated broadcast network in kids dayparts during the week and on Saturdays, is still sold separately from Cartoon, but, according to Uva, packages can be arranged for interested advertisers.

At Nickelodeon, integrated marketing/advertising packages have been a major piece of business for several years. In addition, the company is aggressively seeking "non-traditional kids advertisers," says Sue Danaher, executive vice president and general sales manager.

Ford is a recent example that combines both strategies. It has purchased time in Nick Jr. on both Nickelodeon and CBS, where Nick Jr. runs Saturday mornings. The company also buys print ads in Nickelodeon
magazine, and Blue, the puppy character in Blue's Clues, is Ford's "spokespuppy" for a child-safety campaign tied to specially created Web sites. Ford is also a sponsor of a Blue'sClues tour.

In fact, says Danaher, at Nickelodeon, the pursuit of new revenue and the development of integrated marketing packages year round really are more critical to Nick's revenue growth than the upfront. "We participate in it, but the majority of our business and the bigger deals are not confined to the upfront."

Gary Montanus, who took over as senior vice president for the Disney Kids Network some four months ago, agrees that the pitch to kids advertisers focuses more on "integrated marketing" strategies than on just eyeballs. He adds, "It's really about combining more components that affect kids' lives."

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