NICKELODEON WINS 30% GAIN IN KIDS UPFRONT: NICK'S FLEDGLING TV LAND TRIES TO RIDE COATTAILS VIA PACKAGE DEALS

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Cable network Nickelodeon was putting the finishing touches on upfront sales late last week, inching close to its goal of writing $285 million worth of ad business in the advance marketplace, about a 30% increase from a year ago.

Nickelodeon, which traditionally kicks off the kids upfront market, was averaging cost-per-thousand increases of about 15%. With a 15% ratings increase for the network's programming lineup during the past year, most time buyers had little to complain about.

ADVERTISERS EXTEND DEALS

A number of advertisers were in the second year of two-year deals and extended those pacts to the third quarter of 1999, covering the seasons that begin in fall of this year and fall 1998, said John Popkowski, exec VP-advertising sales at MTV Networks, which owns Nickelodeon.

One surprise is that Nickelodeon seemed to be at loggerheads with Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and was still struggling to close a deal with the agency on Friday. Burnett, with clients Kellogg Co., McDonald's Corp. and Nintendo of America, among others, is a major buyer of kids TV time.

Some agencies were said to be turned off by Nickelodeon's suggestion they package their Nickelodeon buys with purchases on the fledgling Nick at Nite's TV Land channel.

Though it won't be measured by Nielsen Media Research until the second quarter, TV Land claimed it was in 18.3 million homes at the end of 1996 and will be in 20 million when paid commercials start running on the network for the first time in the fourth quarter.

Through upfront deals packaged with Nickelodeon, TV Land hopes to be 50% sold for that kickoff.

CARTOON NETWORK ACTIVE

Turner Broadcasting System's Cartoon Network also wrote upfront business last week, with average CPM increases in midteen levels, said two buyers at major agencies.

Before the kids upfront market broke, the network had been talking about 25% to 30% CPM increases, "which still would have been extremely cheap, comparatively," said one of the buyers.

Some agency executives were pressuring Fox Broadcasting to open its kids marketplace last week, but the network held firm and said it wouldn't write any business until after programming presentations to advertisers this week.

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