New Shows Have Buyers Talking About Syndication

Whether big stars attract big upfront commitments remains to be seen

A bumper crop of new daytime talk shows are
jockeying for position with media buyers as the
upfront advertising sales season approaches.

The syndicators took their stars—Katie Couric, Jeff
Probst, Ricki Lake and Steve Harvey—to early meetings
with buyers, looking to get sponsors on board and
integrated into the shows.

The syndicators are looking to win steep prices to
help pay for their high-priced talent. But one buyer
says he’s not sure it’s worth the risk to buy a position
in a new show for close to what clients would pay for a
more established program.

“My level of fear in getting engaged with a new show
is high because the level of failure is significant,” says
Jason Kanefsky, executive director of strategic investments
at media agency MPG.

Syndicators are looking for $20 to $28 CPMs (cost
per thousand viewers) in the women 25-to-54 daytime
demo, close to the $30 CPM that top-rated established
shows attract, according to market sources.

“When some of these daytime properties are only
going to deliver a 1.5 rating, why am I paying $25 for
that?” Kanefsky asks.

The syndicators say their
new shows will fill a daytime
gap left by the departure
of Oprah Winfrey two
years ago and the cancellation
of soap operas by the
broadcast networks.

John Nogawski, president
of CBS Television Distribution,
says advertisers
have already committed to
sponsor Jeff Probst.

“Early on, we had decided
that we would like
to have a different kind of
relationship. Rather than
waiting until the show begins,
we wanted to have an
early dialog so we could
see what was important for some key specific clients,”
Nogawski says. He says brands in those three or four
categories “are certainly going to be very visible inside
this television show for the first 52 weeks.”

Katie Couric’s new show is reportedly seeking the
highest prices from advertisers. Katie also become a
lightning rod for criticism by rivals who point to ratings
improvements at Today and the CBS Evening News after
Couric left those shows and a lack of a ratings bump for
her recent appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Nevertheless, Howard Levy, executive VP for ad sales
at Disney-ABC Domestic Television, says Couric’s show,
executive produced by former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff
Zucker, has been getting a terrific reception. “We’ve got
a couple of people looking right now in terms of sponsorships,”
says Levy. “We haven’t had a lot of hesitation
because people know who she is, they know she’s got a
lot of integrity. Between those two [factors], they have
a high comfort level.”

“There’s going to be a lot of demand,” Levy added.
“I’m not going to comment on our pricing structure, but I
think people recognize it’s going to be a good show.”

Twentieth Television thinks it has a winner with the
return of Ricki Lake to the talk show field. Like her audience,
Lake is a bit older now and facing different issues
than when she did her old show. “If you pull back a little
it and say who’s more approachable to that daytime audience,
who’s more accessible to that daytime audience,” it’s
Lake, says Joe Oulvey, Twentieth executive VP for ad sales.

NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution is pushing
Steve Harvey, fronted by the comedian who has turned
around Family Feud. “Daytime viewers say they like
Steve Harvey,” says Bo Argentino, senior VP of advertising
and media sales for NBCU DTD.

“We’re well aware that we have a lot of company,
but I think that’s a good thing because it means we’re
still programming for the stations and that they’re still
looking for new product,” Argentino says. “Daytime is
still an important daypart for many categories because
of its efficiencies, and because we have unique genres
specific to syndication.”

NBCU is also selling Trisha, a talk show starring Trisha
Goddard and produced by the team behind Maury.

The volume of new talk shows could give buyers the
opportunity to play the syndicators off one another to
get better deals. It also means that it’s likely not all of
the shows will survive long-term.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how that shakes out in
the daytime marketplace,” says Twentieth’s Oulvey.

With so many new players, how about one more? “I
would give Tim Tebow a talk show,” says MPG’s Kanefsky,
referring to the NFL quarterback recently traded to the
New York Jets after becoming a sensation in the NFL
for a string of last-minute comebacks and his strong
Christian faith. “The women would love him. He’s very
well-spoken,” Kanefsky says.

In other dayparts, syndication looks strong, with offnetwork
shows scoring high ratings at a time when the
networks are looking to augment their primetime ratings
with time-shifting
viewers watching ondemand
and online.

“The high-end syndication
properties are not
cheap, but they deliver a
value,” says Kanefsky.

Kanefsky says that
syndication’s perceived
value is damaged because
its shows don’t
run in pattern between
8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
like network shows
do. “That argument is
somewhat being spun
on its head, because
guess what? If I’m buying
time-shifted C3 [ratings],
I could be reaching
somebody at 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” he says.

Even without a new talk show to pitch, Warner Bros.
Domestic Television Distribution was out pitching advertisers
earlier than usual for this upfront.

“Given the success we’ve had with Big Bang Theory
coupled with Two and a Half Men, we have an incredible
reach story that competes head-to-head with the broadcast
networks,” says Michael Teicher, executive VP, media
sales for WBDTD. “We felt that was a message we had
better get out to advertisers as soon as possible, so they
could see all the alternatives they have to reach their targeted
audiences most efficiently and effectively.”

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