The giant toymaker, with a national TV budget of $200 million, was telling the networks that if they'd give Mattel double-digit cost-per-thousand decreases, "then the networks could basically name their share of [Mattel's] budget," said one media executive familiar with the offers.
"I don't know of anyone who was taking those terms," he added.
Rick Dellaquila, Mattel VP-advertising services, declined comment.
TN Media currently handles Mattel's kids broadcast buying; Ogilvy & Mather, kids cable buying; and Media Edge, adult media buying. The marketer is conducting a review with the goal of consolidating its media buying.
Aside from the three New York incumbents, Carat USA, New York and Los Angeles, is in the review.
MORE FAVORABLE TERMS
Most network executives felt Mattel eventually would close upfront ad packages on terms more favorable to the programmers.
"With the amount of money [Mattel has] to spend, and the fact [it's] a heavy fourth-quarter spender, I can't imagine it would gamble entirely on the scatter market," said one cable TV network executive, referring to buys made on a day-to-day basis after upfront sales are closed.
Sellers said they thought Mattel was under cost pressures to cut favorable deals; on Friday, the company said it was cutting 10% of its work force and taking a pretax charge of $300 million to $350 million.
A SOFT KIDS UPFRONT
As expected, the kids upfront was soft. CPM increases in general were flat, both buyers and sellers reported. Overall upfront spending for kids programming was said to be slightly down this year.
Buyers and sellers agree that last year's kids market was about $715 million to $725 million.
"Even the bright spots on the kids front, the WB and Cartoon [Network]. . . were not rewarded with the CPM increases they would have gotten-and probably deserved-in a stronger market," said one agency buyer.
WB carries such hits as "Pokemon" and "Batman Beyond." Cartoon Network has had spectacular growth overall.
In the first quarter alone, Cartoon Network's ratings were up 41% in kids 2 to 11 and up 50% in kids 6 to 11, compared with a year earlier. Distribution of the network was up 16% in the first quarter; it's now available is almost 55 million homes.
Both networks are owned by Time Warner.
NICKELODEON STILL NO. 1
The No. 1 children's network continues to be Nickelodeon which, on any given week, has about half of the top-rated shows on cable TV.
Many marketers are in the midst of multiyear deals on Nickelodeon.