RUSH TO BUY KIDS' AD TIME? NOT THIS YEAR, SAYS EXPERT

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Sometimes it's tough to understand what kids really want.

But it's easy to know what marketers to kids want: a less expensive kids upfront TV marketplace.

Once again, advertisers may get their wish. An abundance of programming options-maybe too many options-continues the glut of advertising time that made last year the first buyers' market in years. The continuation of that glut is expected to hold down prices.

MAYBE A SMALLER PRICE TAG

Kids TV last year drew $750 million in advertising dollars last year, and projections are that the same amount-perhaps less-will be spent this season.

"In talking to other media buyers and sellers, it's going to be an even softer market than last year," said Shelly Hirsch, president of Summit Media, a kids program syndicator and media buyer.

Many of the same conditions that existed last year will again be in force this season. While programming and advertising time slots increase, some kids marketers have consolidated. Last year Hasbro bought Galoob Toys and Tiger Electronics in separate transactions.

One analyst anticipates less overall spending from Hasbro. Additionally, retailers such as Toys "R" Us began slowing down time purchases to curtail a stockpile of undersold toys.

Food companies, such as Kellogg Co., are poised to spend about the same, perhaps fewer, ad dollars this year, according to industry executives.

RATINGS ARE DROPPING

National TV ratings also are dropping. ABC, for example, through Jan. 24 has dropped to a Nielsen 3.0 rating/15 share from a 3.4/15 last year for kids aged 2 to 11.

Nickelodeon continues to be the dominant player in the market. It represents 56 share of all kids gross rating points. This year, Nickelodeon could feel the effect of some softer business, because they will be renegotiating multiyear deals with advertisers now coming to end.

Perhaps only Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon's nearest cable competitor, will be rewarded with ad revenue increases now that its ratings are up. Cartoon has seen Saturday morning ratings climb to a 1.4/6 from a 1.3/6 for kids 2 to 11.

DEALS EXPECTED LATER

Last year, for the first time in many years, the market moved in April. In previous years, when the market was a hot affair, deals had been negotiated in early February or late January.

The actions of Jon Mandel, co-managing director of New York-based Grey Advertising's MediaCom, were a major reason why the market went so late.

Because MediaCom represents Hasbro and its associated divisions, Mr. Mandel drives about 25% of the entire market. When asked when the market would move

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