Starcom, Nickelodeon Kick Off Kids' Upfront

Deal Includes Joint Research Project to Track Children's Media Usage

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Just two days after striking the first cable upfront deal of the season, with the Discovery networks, Starcom has inked its second cable deal and the first of the kids' upfront with Nickelodeon.
The network is deep into discussions with its other clients to determine which currency will be used to conduct other deals.
The network is deep into discussions with its other clients to determine which currency will be used to conduct other deals.

Based on quarter-hour program ratings, the deal comprises the various platforms in the Viacom Kids and Family Group, including Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nick.com and Nick Magazine. The network and the agency will also team up for a series of research projects in late 2007 and early 2008 to illuminate kids' changing media consumption. The studies will take a closer look at how integrated media, online advertising and commercial ratings differ for a kids' audience. A separate study will examine minute-by-minute commercial data in the kids' space for Starcom's clients.

Participating clients
The participating Starcom clients are Kellogg, Nintendo, Lego, Chuck E. Cheese and Buena Vista, said Jim Perry, head of sales for the Kids and Family Group. Starcom could not confirm the list of clients. Kellogg's announcement last week that it would limit advertising to kids -- putting about $200 million in limbo -- won't affect its participation compared with previous years, Mr. Perry said. "We have a very deep partnership with Kellogg in media, marketing and consumer products. Financially it's a great deal for us and Kellogg."

Mr. Perry was unable to estimate the percentage of his inventory the Starcom deal involves, but he said he expects to sell more inventory overall in this year's kids' upfront.

"Between the regular kids' upfront and a lot of new business it's going to be generating, we're banking on the fact that it's going to be a good move to sell a little more in the upfront," he said.

Which currency?
He added that the network is deep into discussions with its other clients to determine which currency will be used to conduct other deals. "We're closer with some than we are with others. It's always good to have the first one down and have a deal we feel really good about behind us. We're ready to go either way -- whatever makes the most sense for us and our clients."

Mr. Perry's boss, Hank Close, sales chief for all the MTV Networks, added, "Starcom is a valued partner that shares our unremitting audience focus, and we're thrilled to move forward with them in learning more about how today's kids are navigating the multiplatform world."

Mr. Close was one of several cable sales execs who publicly favored doing upfront deals based on program ratings as opposed to the preferred broadcast metric of average commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifted viewing. Cable executives have argued that the commercial-ratings data are too unreliable to use as currency for upfront deals.

'The right media partners'
Starcom Chief Activation Officer Chris Boothe, who also brokered this week's minute-by-minute deal with Discovery, said, "Our agency is focused on finding the right media partners to collaboratively develop specialized deals that will paint an accurate picture of audience viewing behaviors."

"Collaborating on this research will allow us to better understand how their clients' commercial messages work best in this continuously evolving media landscape and provide us with crucial information to creatively move into the next era of advertising," Mr. Perry said.
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