Syndication Upfront Jumps 10% to $2.4 Billion

Studios sell more advance inventory, trying to keep scatter high sans Oprah
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Like the rest of the upfront market, syndication sales were fast and furious, and were completed alongside of network and cable. By several accounts, a 10% increase over last year to a $2.4 billion overall take is a conservative estimate.

"This year was fast and right on time," says a syndication advertising executive. "It was great that syndication was negotiated along with network and cable. That shows that more people are recognizing that we offer a true alternative."

"We had one of the best upfronts that we've ever had," says another syndicator.

Syndication is sold in tiers, and each tier of programming was up by a different amount. Top-tier shows earned increases in the low double-digits; mid-tier shows improved by high single digits; and third-tier shows increased by approximately 5%, said several executives.

"Syndication really runs daytime, especially now with ABC canceling the soap operas. We have truly big brands in daytime-Ellen is a brand, Live With Regis and Kelly is a brand, Dr. Oz is a brand. Who would want to give that up?" says another syndication advertising exec.

Syndicators sold a much greater proportion of their available inventory in this year's upfront-up to 85%, according to several execs-because a softer scatter market is expected after last year's exceeded pricing expectations.

"Typically if there was a strong scatter market, which there was this year, the next year isn't as strong," says an advertising salesperson. "Clients decide they don't want to pay increases in scatter, so they put more of their money into the upfront."

Another reason that syndicators are holding less back for scatter is because they expect ratings to be down next year, with Oprah out of the marketplace and with two new shows on ABC's daytime lineup. Syndicators hope that by selling most of their inventory in the upfront they will keep scatter prices high.

"A slight decrease in rating means there's less overall inventory. That drives up prices," says Ira Bernstein, copresident of Debmar-Mercury.

To read what happened to the so-called "Oprah money" and what new shows advertisers are looking forward to coming to market, check out the June 20 edition of Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

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