KIDS UPFRONT BUYING SET TO START WITH TINY INCREASES EXPECTED

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NEW YORK-Media buyers are hoping for kiddy size advertising price hikes for the 1994-95 children's TV season.

That's good news for most major children's advertisers, which for the past several seasons have paid increases in the 20% to 30% range as demand for kids ad time exceeded supply.

"The good news is that the ratings performance, particularly on Fox, has been so strong that there are more rating points available in the marketplace," said Jon Mandel, senior VP-director of national broadcast at Grey Advertising.

Mr. Mandel said Grey estimates the supply of kids TV rating points has increased about 4.5% while demand from advertisers will "basically be flat. While there will be some new money in the marketplace, demand will not increase as much as the supply has. I think most people are being fairly realistic that prices will be flat."

Upfront buys for the 1994-95 TV season should start over the next several weeks for cable networks such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and USA Network, and for major syndicated kids TV shows.

The Big 4 broadcast networks won't unveil their 1994-95 kids programming schedules until March and aren't expected to kick off deals until later that month.

But Fox, the network with the strongest lineup of kids programming, is expected to dominate the market once again.

Fox's 1993-94 TV season introduced the most successful new kids show on TV, the "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" and Fox's "X-Men" continues to be one of the strongest shows.

Fox is expected to add "Spider-Man," a state-of-the-art animated series based on the popular comic book character, to its 1994-95 schedule.

"Fox has grown tremendously over the past couple of years, and they've taken their audience from CBS and NBC," said Steve Sternberg, senior VP-broadcast research at BJK&E Media.

Indeed, Fox now represents more than half of the kids TV marketplace for the Big 4 networks. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Fox had $71.6 million, or 52%, of the $137.4 million network kids marketplace in the fourth quarter of 1993. CBS had about $27.6 million, or 20.1%; ABC $26.3 million, or 19.1%; and NBC $12 million, or 8.7%.

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