'Pffft,' goes Syndie Day; what's next?

'It was like high school' as bell rang, but no one is clear what replaces well-attended event

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In the final analysis, it's about how best to close a syndication deal.

And apparently, the best way wasn't via a road show aimed at groups of media buyers. The announcement by the Syndicated Network Television Association that it was discontinuing its pre-upfront Syndication Day events, in which content providers made presentations to media agencies, came as a surprise to many observers.

The curt nature and timing of the December announcement raised a few eyebrows, especially in the wake of higher attendance and mostly thumbs-up reviews for the March 2005 events staged in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Instead, for 2006 SNTA officials and reps from its member syndicators will schedule a series of visits with individual agencies.

"Clearly, [agency] people want presentations tailored to specific interests and clients," says Lyle Schwartz, managing partner-marketplace and research analysis at Mediaedge:cia, New York. "The large room doesn't inhibit the ability to get the flavor of the programming. But can you close the deal there? No. [Smaller meetings] make more sense."

Attendees of past Syndication Day gatherings stress that the events did many things well. Most notably, the get-togethers underscored the breadth of syndicated offerings. Where they came up lacking was in providing the right environment for the nitty-gritty of deal-making.

"Very generally, there was a sentiment out there that a lot of these meetings weren't as productive [from a deal-making perspective] as they could be," says Ed Gentner, senior VP-group director, visual investment and activation group, at MediaVest, New York.

With multiple sessions crammed into a single day, attendees barely had time to catch their breath, much less negotiate the hyper-specialized deals most marketers crave.

SNTA President Mitch Burg acknowledges those same challenges. "It was like high school," he says. "The bell rang and you had to move everybody to the next place right away."

Mr. Burg stresses that a range of factors contributed to the decision to shelve Syndication Day, among them increasing competitiveness within the business. "Anybody who has an idea [for a deal with a syndicator] doesn't necessarily want to share it," he says. "Even within agencies, Client A won't talk in earshot of Client B."

No SNTA member syndicators contacted were willing to discuss their feelings about the demise of Syndication Day. Six major syndicators, including Twentieth Television and CBS Paramount Domestic Television, are SNTA members.

Though details about the new, comparatively informal gatherings weren't available at deadline, they should allow media buyers to play their cards considerably closer to their vests than they'd be able to at a highly trafficked trade event.

Mr. Burg may be frugal with information about SNTA's plans for the upcoming agency visits, but he says SNTA's inaugural Press Day will be held early in the week of April 24 in New York and will give business-press reporters the chance to view the presentations traditionally seen by station executives and advertisers.

At least one executive is curious how Press Day will play. "I say this without knowing all the details, but is the idea to give the information to the media and hope that you guys translate it over to the buyers who used to go to Syndication Day?" asks Mr. Schwartz. "If that's the case, that's pretty gutsy."
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