Premium shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show, Friends, Entertainment Tonight, and game-show warhorses Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune continue to generate solid ad sales in the first-quarter scatter market. Syndication buyers report 10%-15% premiums above upfront prices for prime access programming.
"Second- and third-quarter syndication buys are difficult because we had bought so heavily in the upfront," notes one major syndication buyer, speaking off the record. "Now, you're forced to buy crud in order to get to the good stuff."
Daytime viewership is up more than 2% overall this season, with Dr. Phil up 20%, The View up 11%, Live With Regis and Kelly up 12%, according to Bill Carroll, VP, programming, Katz TV Group. The "solid" success of The Ellen
Degeneres Show, he says, means that Warner Bros. is seeking upgrades for the show's second year, including "more-profitable barter time with higher license fees."
Meanwhile, a handful of new first-run entries for 2004 have potential, says Carroll, including On Air With Ryan Seacrest (launched in January) and The Jane Pauley
Show, The Tony Danza Show, and Life & Style (all due in the fall). More challenging is the lack of off-network hits in the pipeline: "Anything that makes it to 80 episodes will find its way [into syndication]."
Meanwhile, new Syndicated Network Television Association President Mitch Burg is meeting with buyers. He considers syndication "under-appreciated" by the media-buying community and hopes to change that and "ensure that it receives the credit it deserves for its quality programming, star personalities and outstanding ratings performance."