The migration of advertising dollars from broadcast to cable continues unabated at this year’s upfront. The shift is a reflection of where TV viewers are spending more of their time, say industry veterans — that is, when they are not on the Internet or using offline game consoles.
While cable networks have traditionally touted their demographic specificity and lower cost per viewer, such claims are wearing thin, especially when compared to new competition from video-on-demand providers. And several major marketers, including P&G and Coca-Cola, have become increasingly resentful of commiting ad dollars a full five months prior to a cable or broadcast show’s airing — and long before audience response can be weighed.
During the upfront, both cable and broadcast networks highlight new programming for the coming season and sell up to 80% of their commercial time for those and returning shows. While the bulk of the buying process is completed in the spring in advance of autumn debuts, the upfront is becoming a year-round effort for some.
“The market is very well poised for another successful cable run,” Charlie Collier, executive VP and general manager of ad sales at Court TV, predicted at the Upfront Television Advertising Summit in New York in April.
Experts predict up to $600 million will shift from broadcast TV to cable in the upfront for the 2005-06 season, largely due to cost. Cable networks are positioning themselves to scoop up advertisers weary of higher-priced packages offered by broadcast networks.
Last year, the cable upfront took in an estimated $6.3 billion. This year, experts estimate the cable market will grow another 7% to 10%, while broadcast is expected to remain flat.
“We do see the cable marketplace overall continue to gain strength and capitalize on its momentum,” says Linda Yaccarino, executive VP, Turner Entertainment Sales and Marketing. “Ad dollars are starting to follow the viewers. It’s that simple.”
When it comes to the upfront, advertisers generally look for one key element — good programming. With lower ad costs and a strong portfolio of shows, cable nets such as Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and Turner Network Television (TNT) give advertisers “a better bang for your buck,” Yaccarino says.
“Advertisers are looking for quality, consistent TV that brings an audience they might not necessarily be able to get anywhere else,” she says.
Branded entertainment is still red-hot in the coming season. Cable networks and advertisers expect to see more of bundled deals that merge product placement and traditional ad spots.
“The biggest thing is, it has to be organic to the program,” says John Matuck, senior VP-advertising sales for Lifetime. “It has to make sense. You won’t see a clutter issue. The way we envision it is to make it more seamless, so it’s not in your face.”
This year, Lifetime and other networks, including A&E and Bravo, plan more programming with brand integration. In A&E’s case, “We’ve done a lot, we’re trying to do more,” says Mel Berning executive VP-ad sales for A&E TV Networks. “The key is to do something that stands out.”
Bravo first tried brand integration with its hit Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, says Frances Berwick, senior VP- programming and productions for Bravo. “It’s another way of extending brands,” Berwick says. “It’s a question of balance…and finding the right brand and the right fit.”
This year, Bravo is launching its most aggressive slate of original programming, with more than 30 new series and specials. Queer Eye, produced by Scott Productions, returns for a new season June 7 at 10 p.m. In the premiere episode, the Fab 5 will make over World Series Champion Boston Red Socks players Kevin Millar, Johnny Damon, Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek and Doug Mirabelli.
Bravo also plans to try the emerging hybrid format, which crosses different genres. For example, it merges comedy with reality via Kathy Griffin: My Life On the D-List, a new six-episode unscripted series that follows the comic’s life and celebrity encounters. The show debuts July 27 at 10 p.m.
While broadcast programs may have contestants eating bugs or traveling around the world to win cash, cable nets want new ways to quench viewers’ thirst for reality shows. Cable nets continue to craft their own versions of reality-based TV shows, finding rising popularity in unscripted, “fly on the wall” reality shows.
For example, A&E, which re-branded itself last year from an arts-based focus to more unscripted and documentary programming, is introducing Inked. The new reality show is scheduled to debut this summer and will take viewers to a Las Vegas tattoo parlor, where they can follow the comings and goings of celebrity clientele. At the same time, A&E plans to renew its real life series Airline this summer, expanding its reach to the Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
“People are very drawn to these shows because they tell a story about real people and real situations,” Berning says. “In some situations, they are more interesting than fiction. I don’t think that genre goes away. It becomes much more of an element in the schedule.”
A&E is adding some muscle to its schedule with the syndication premiere of the FOX hit 24, which premieres late summer; it follows up with syndication rebroadcast of HBO’s The Sopranos, which will debut in fourth quarter 2006 (with a sanitized version). The network’s acquisition of the hit show is an example of how cable can provide better quality shows “up and down the dial,” Berning says.
Lifetime rejoins the reality pool this fall with How Clean Is Your House, based on the popular British series of the same name, produced by Optomen Production, Inc.
Watch for You’re Not The Man I Married, a new unscripted show that follows couples in search of renewed romance in their marriage. The network hasn’t scheduled the launch yet.
The Discovery Channel enters the ratings race with a new line of shows designed to keep its audience buzzing via unscripted shows and documentaries. Viewers stay with Discovery for the quality of its shows, says Joe Abruzzese, president, advertising sales for Discovery Networks, U.S.
Expectations are high for Discovery’s Q3 2005 debut of Firehouse USA: Boston, an unscripted show about real-life firefighters and the dangers they encounter. “It’s real life people doing dangerous jobs who are real heroes,” Abruzzese says. In another new series to debut in Q4 2005, the network features stories of human survival and people who cheated death in I Shouldn’t Be Alive.
Just for kids
This year, the upfront for children’s programming has ad spending increasing across the board.
“There is more revenue, more demand for advertising than there was a year ago,” says Jim Perry, senior VP-ad sales for Nickelodeon. “It’s not driven by any one category. For kids, it’s toys, movie studios and packaged goods companies. We’re seeing good business from all three.”
Nickelodeon is rolling out six new live-action and animated series for the new season, including Catscratch, an animated tale about three wealthy felines who live in a world of humans (premiers July 9); and Power Strikers, a live-action comedy produced by Whoopi Goldberg that chronicles four diverse players on a winning girls’ soccer team (premiers in the first quarter of 2006).
“Kids watch television just like adults do…and gravitate to shows they love,” says Pete Danielsen, senior VP-Programming at Nickelodeon. “Shows with great stories and great character content for kids always works.”
Cartoon Network is an exemplar of networks straddling the adult-kid divide. It enters the mix with five new animated series and a new focus on more adult entertainment. With the growing popularity of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, cable is proving cartoons aren’t just for kids. Adult Swim, which debuted in 2001, gives adults “a destination” for late night cartoons — primarily men 18 to 34, demographic often difficult to drive to TV. The shows air Saturday through Thursday from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“The Simpsons really broke the mold,” Jim Samples, executive VP and general manager of Cartoon Network says. “It said animation is for adults. It can be funny. It can be primetime. A generation ago, people might have tended to think only cartoons [aired] on Saturdays. But since Cartoon Network [debuted], a whole generation grew up not ever thinking that way.”
SNEAK PEEK What might make the cut
Criss Angel Mindfreak (July) It’s Cirque d’Soleil meets Fear Factor in A&E’s new series featuring master illusionist Criss Angel who performs death defying stunts before a live audience. Angel Productions, Inc. and The Firm produce.
Battle of The Network Reality Stars (Aug. 10) Bravo is updating the 1970s series with America’s love of reality TV stars. Viewers can watch their favorite reality battle it out in kayak races and dunk tanks for cash and prizes. IMG produces the show.
Blow Out (June 7) The drama returns for a second season of the hit series about celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Antin and his dream to open a salon in Beverly Hills. Now with two bustling salons, the second season follows Antin during the worldwide launch of Jonathan Product. Reveille LLC and Magna Global Entertainment produce.
Adult Swim The Boondocks (October) Turner Broadcasting System is bringing the famous comic strip to life. The series tells the story of a grandfather who becomes the legal guardian of his rambunctious grandchildren and moves to the south side of Chicago. While the grandchildren do their best to cause trouble in the suburbs, they are no match for Grandpa Freeman.
Camp Lazlo (July 2005) Harkening back to the days of Looney Tunes, this new animated series tells the tale of a irrepressible monkey and his friends who makes their summer home at Camp Kidney, where an uptight Scoutmaster Lumpus, rules.
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi (June) The popular animated series returns for a second season following the adventure of two very different pop stars as they travel from gig to gig or stay in their hometown of Japan.
Strong Medicine (June 12) The drama continues at a women’s clinic run by two female doctors with varying management styles in the new season, which stars Rick Schroder as a physician. Sony Television Pictures produces.
Minding The Store (Q4 2005) Reality meets comedy as Pauly Shore tries to both rejuvenate his mother’s famous Comedy Store, where Hollywood’s big comedians got a start, and jump-start his own career.
Into the West (June 10) This epic saga details the opening of the American West from both the settlers’ and Native Americans’ points of view. DreamWorks Television and Steven Spielberg produce.
April 2006, Walt Disney Pictures
Next Easter, Disney brings a unique brand of photo-realistic computer animation to the big screen. Come along for the ride as a lion and his quirky zoo pals travel through the urban jungles of New York to the wild jungles of Africa in a comedic adventure fit for the whole family.
THE NEW WORLD
November 2005, New Line Cinema
This epic adventure is set amid the encounter between European and Native American cultures during the founding of the Jamestown Settlement in 1607. Inspired by the legend of John Smith and Pocahontas, acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick transforms this classic story into a dramatized tale of two strong-willed characters who are torn between their duty and their hearts.
Holiday 2005, FOX Home Entertainment
Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm become the Fantastic Four after a freak accident aboard a space station blasts the four with radiation, permanently augmenting their genetic structures. While possessing uncommon powers unlike those of any of the superhero teams that preceded them, the Fantastic Four have problems, worries and arguments — just like real people…and real families.
Sueños y Caramelos (Candies and Dreams)
October 2005, United Media
This new kids telenovela from Televisa tells the enchanting story of the endless adventures of Sophia, a small girl who lives in a department store with her grandfather, the chief of night security. By day, the store runs like any other, but by night Sophia’s home becomes a magical world filled with friendship, music and lots of love.
Fall 2005, Random 1 Productions
The notion of the Good Samaritan lives on in this new series, airing on A&E this fall. The show features a team that scouts America’s streets in search of people in need and helps tackle everyday problems. The team gets problem solving help from an on-line interactive audience pool.
Disney “MIX” Mania
Q4 2005, Walt Disney Records
The next release in the platinum-selling Disneymania music franchise is coming this fall! It follows gold-certifications of Volumes 1, 2, and 3, and features a mix of the best of the best of kids’ favorite music stars singing Disney their way. The CD will launch with heavy TV, print, radio and online support. Teen and tween-targeted tie-in opportunities exist with TV concert special.
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