In 2001, sellers reaped what they sowed, after years of tagging advertisers with double-digit increases, said Irwin Gotlieb, head of media buyer Mindshare, characterizing the year as an "over-correction" on ad prices.
Speaking on a NATPE panel, he noted that, in previous years, national advertisers had a hard time placing all their allotted budgets on the networks, so a lot of money spilled over into syndication and other alternatives. "Syndication was a disproportionate beneficiary of the economic boom."
Columbia TriStar Domestic Television's Steve Mosko acknowledged that syndicators were "drunk with money" until last year and probably didn't spend it as wisely as they could have in the area of programming development. Still, he said, last year's adjustment was "probably necessary." As for '02, he acknowledged that it will be a "challenge" for syndicators.
Program development and distribution patterns will change, he said. "The bad economy has forced us all to re-evaluate our business models." In the old days, "we were always swinging for the upper-deck home run" with expensive development efforts. "Now we're scaling back."
Gotlieb said '02 probably won't be a terrible year—particularly if the dotcom aberration is discounted. "Forget 2000," he said. "That should never have happened, and we should just put it behind us."
Petry Media sees "a pretty bleak picture of the future for games [in syndication], even those with a network pedigree," citing network ratings for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
and Weakest Link, both of which recently moved into first-run syndication.
Millionaire's ratings have dropped substantially the past two years; among adults 25-54, Petry notes,
it has dropped 77% over six major sweeps periods. Link
does better in the 25-54 demo than Millionaire,
although, Petry points out, it has dropped 7% over the two major sweeps periods it has been on the air.
Still, the expectation level for both Millionaire
is extremely high. But, Petry warns, "if we expect immediate high returns, we will likely be disappointed."
Separately, Petry analyzed shows repurposed on broadcast and cable and noted that, so far, cable ratings for most of the offerings have been rather anemic. Once & Again
on Lifetime averaged a lower rating than Golden Girls,
a 1980s sitcom, did in the same time period.
But rep firm Katz Television Group's was more upbeat on game shows in its picks, giving syndicated versions of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Weakest Link
game shows get a nod. In first-run talk, Katz gives thumbs up to new shows Dr. Phil
and Beyond With James Van Praagh
and sees some potential in new magazine Celebrity Justice, particularly as a lead-in or lead-out from a local daytime newscast. Stations seeking new off-net hours should make CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
"a priority based on its solid record of performance" on CBS.
The Fox network's new president believes broadcasters in a market ought to be free to negotiate as a group for carriage fees from cable operators.
Speaking on a panel on media consolidation and deregulation, Tony Vinciquerra said: "Now we are dealing with [cable] monopolies in virtually every one of our markets. AT&T and Comcast, once they get together, will have 90% penetration in many, many large markets." Broadcasters need an antitrust exemption, he said, so they can negotiate "en masse" with the local cable operator. He stressed he was talking for himself, not Fox.
FremantleMedia North America, a division of German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, is building a Hollywood division to produce prime time dramas and, possibly, daytime soaps for broadcast and cable networks.
"Our company is very strong in drama development around the world, and we are going to give the American market a go," says FremantleMedia North America Deputy CEO Catherine Mackay.
Having turned over its U.S. distribution and ad sales to Tribune Entertainment, FremantleMedia continues to produce first-run shows for syndication, mostly game shows. In syndication, its chief goal is to revitalize Family Feud. The series is currently in its third season in syndication, and Tribune is renewing it for 2002-03. Insiders say host Louie Anderson may be out next season; Tribune and FremantleMedia executives had no comment.
FremantleMedia has canceled its freshman remake of classic game Cardsharks, and Mackay says the company's other U.S. syndicated series To Tell the Truth
has been put on production hiatus.