Media Outlook 2000

Julie Kantrowitz
Warner Brothers


There is a legend that shepherd families, after centuries of herding their sheep on steep mountain slopes, bore children with one shorter leg. When times changed, it took them decades to adjust to a new life on the flat streets of the cities. Our business could be like that. After decades of TV being a few large mountains called networks, advertisers suddenly have had to adjust to the flatter land of TV today. We call the change fragmentation, but its really just viewers following programs. And even with one leg shorter from working the mountains, most advertisers have quickly learned to follow the viewers wherever they go.

As advertisers look to other sources to replace the viewers leaving network television, syndications value as an alternative becomes obvious. It is cost effective, and it increases an advertisers reach beyond that of a network only schedule, in part because syndications strongest dayparts, early fringe and prime access, are unavailable from networks. The inventory is there. In a typical week, more than 150 ad-supported syndicated programs are telecast with almost 90 percent being first-run. This represents nearly a quadrupling of the quantity available over a decade ago. Further, there are nearly as many hours of programming available in syndication as are currently offered by the major networks. Now savvy marketers can deliver their advertising messages in hit programs like Drew Carey and Friends five times a week instead of only once.

Syndication is successfully challenging high-budget network fare for advertising revenues in prime, daytime, early fringe, and late night. And it commands a major share of viewing in all dayparts programmed. Many top syndicated properties consistently deliver more than 95 percent of U.S. households. Warner Bros. syndicated prime replacement properties are competitive with the network A18-34 and A18-49 averages. Programs like Friends, Drew Carey, Extra, and Access Hollywood deliver comparable audiences to network prime. Programs like Rosie ODonnell attract highly desirable unique audiences that marketers embrace. In latenight, the program Change of Heart is proving that if you will build it they will come delivering audiences competitive with network latenight. And syndication targets equally well.

A recent example of syndications ability to attract viewers lost by the networks is the disappearing 18-34 year old audience. Syndicated properties such as Friends, Change of Heart, Wayans Bros., and daytime talk like Latifah draw this elusive group on a daily basis. With established success in generating original programming in Court, Talk, Magazines, Action Adventure, Relationship, and Games, as well as a large stable of off-network sitcoms syndicated programs deliver appealing content for all ages, in all dayparts, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. For these many reasons advertisers are making use of syndication at an increasing rate. In 1998 national spending in syndication exceeded 2.5 billion dollars. In 1999-2000, syndication spending is expected to top 3 billion dollars. Syndication is a microcosm of what defines success in television. It a venue that serves the four key groups: producers and studios with a showcase for their original programming; stations with a source of quality programming; advertisers with a cost effective alternative to network; and the viewers with a wider array of programming choices. And that is Syndication today, a very large bill in a land without mountains.