Strong upfront sales have syndication sitting pretty for the fourth quarter, but, until firm numbers for debuting shows are in, scatter sales are slow in coming. Nevertheless, the quarter is expected to generate more than 15% revenue growth over the same period a year ago.
"People have inventory to sell, but sell-out levels are good. Most people came out of the upfront strong, so increases should be healthy," says Howard Levy, executive vice president, Buena Vista Television Ad Sales.
"I know they're heavily sold out in the upfront," agrees Gene DeWitt, former president of the Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) and now a media consultant. "From a ratings standpoint, returning shows are solid, and several new shows have opened strongly."
He predicts a 15%-20% increase in overall syndication revenue for fourth quarter 2003 vs. 2002.
Roy Dundas, senior VP/group director, national broadcast, Initiative, concurs that upfront syndication "enjoyed healthy growth." But, he adds, "the fourth quarter usually means low demand because of year-end profit-talking by advertisers. Retail is the exception, and some of my clients have scatter dollars to spend and are doing so."
Carat Account Supervisor Andrew Ladas sees it differently. "I've talked to the networks, and a few clients still have cuts in the fourth quarter. I sense somewhat of a slowdown."
Chris Geraci, director/national TV, OMD, offers a similar view. "Nothing's really happening yet [in scatter]. Most needs were taken care of with upfront spending."