Big Bucks for Cable Yuks

Buyers steamed about USA Network’s pricing for Modern Family
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Modern Family
is coming to cable,
but it isn’t funny to some media
buyers how much NBCUniversal is
looking to charge to advertise for
reruns of the sitcom.

“If you take a look at what
they’re trying to get for Modern
Family
, holy cow, I’m better off
buying Modern Family on ABC,”
said one senior media executive.

The executive said NBCU is
asking for 85% increases above
USA’s current primetime prices for
Modern Family spots.

USA, whose presentation on
May 16 evening closes out Upfront
Week, was the most-watched cable
network in primetime last year.
NBCU CEO Steve Burke has told
analysts his goal is to raise USA’s
advertising rates. But the network’s
ratings are down 13% in the 18-49
demo this season, and according to
SNL Kagan, ad revenue was down
3%, to $998 million.

The move also comes as cable
networks are looking to close the
price gap between how much
advertisers pay for spots on top
broadcast shows and how much
they pay for the growing number
of hit cable originals. Cable
networks pitch their originals as
“broadcast replacement.”

“When you tell NBCU we’re not
going to be able to pay this to be
on USA, that it’s just not going to
happen, the response is, ‘Well,
take [dollars] from [broadcast]
primetime,” the agency executive
said. “Well, why? So I can get
reruns of a primetime show?”

Another senior buyer addressed
the situation via social media. Last
week, Jason Kanefsky, executive
VP, strategic investments at Havas
Media, tweeted: “I applaud USA’s
commitment to secure highquality
original content & acquisition.
Price check needed.”

In an interview, Kanefsky
added, “You can debate the cost
of Modern Family. But there are
hundreds of other properties that
advertisers appear to be overpaying
for. Some will see the value and be willing to pay for it.”

Linda Yaccarino, NBCU president
of ad sales, calls Modern
Family
“the best of the best”
and expects it to be in demand
by advertisers on USA. “When
you dig deep into the power of
Modern Family, it’s actually quite
a unique program,” she said. “It’s
very upscale. It is a show where
the viewers are so intent and so
involved with the characters that
brand recognition for commercials
that air in Modern Family
out-delivers just about every
show on television.”

Before joining NBCU, Yaccarino
helped launch The Big Bang Theory
on TBS, where it drew top ratings
and ad rates. She’ll push for the
same for Modern Family. “There’s
been a marketplace that’s been
established for top-tier off-net
sitcoms, and I think Modern Family
will find a very happy place in that
price point that has already been
established,” she said.

While USA can’t offer product
integration into the Modern Family
episodes it airs, the network
is putting together the kinds of
special sponsorship packages attractive
to advertisers looking for
more than 30-second spots.

USA is dividing up this year’s
fourth quarter into two halves;
the first will be the launch period
and the second is the holiday period.
The network is courting only
four sponsors for each period.

“We don’t want to create a
cluttered environment. For us, this
is making sure that we have big
launch partnerships that can have
impact and not create a scattershot
marketplace,” said Alexandra
Shapiro, head of marketing at USA.

Among the ideas USA is
pitching to potential sponsors is
creating a content package for
the ultimate Modern Family fan;
a mobile tour featuring a Modern
Family
Mobile Portrait Truck
that will allow families to take
portraits and holiday cards and
be featured in an interactive gallery
online; and a Modern Family
Week that would involve multiple
NBCU units and tackle the issues
faced by modern families.

For film studio clients, USA is
teaming up with NBCU’s Fandango
movie site to create custom
Modern Family Weekend Ticket
content to air within episodes
and online at Fandango.

USA also plans to have a second-
screen experience for every
episode of the series, and there
will be ways for sponsors to align
with that, Shapiro added.

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