State-run lotteries seem a particularly inviting target for gambling foes. They are pervasive (lotteries operate in 37 states and the District of Columbia), accessible to citizens of all means and the state governments that run them are subject to pressures from their electorates. Since 1963, when New Hampshire enacted the first lottery, anti-gambling critics have fought the idea. Yet not one state has scrapped its lottery. If gambling critics can't kill lotteries outright, attacks on their advertising become more likely. State lotteries budgeted about $200 million for advertising last year, according to International Gaming & Wagering Business.
The quandary, and the danger, for state lotteries is that their product is mature, sales growth is slowing (to about 0.5% a year nationally from the 3% of past years) and they need new products to rekindle public interest. Too much aggressiveness here-instant video lottery games or taking wagering to the Internet-will test once more public comfort with state-sponsored gambling at the corner store or tavern (or on the home computer).
The same is true for advertising. Lottery managers and the advertising professionals who advise them are selling a product that compulsive gamblers may abuse, with ads that may glamorize games of chance to young people and marketing tactics that can have other, harder to quantify social costs. To discount criticism from this commission or others, or to overemphasize First Amendment "rights," is to gamble with the future public support for their product.M
Over the past few years, the National Association of Television Program Executives convention-the annual bazaar where syndicated TV shows are sold-has seen a slow but steady decline in the number of TV station buyers attending. With programming sales now occurring earlier in the year, several major Hollywood studios have ratcheted up their calls to kill the big January show and move a much-shrunken version to Los Angeles in October or November.
However that might work for station buyers, it would be a bad move for media buyers, who like January as a time to preview syndicated fare, and whose NATPE attendance has actually been growing.
Media buyers are not a constituency the studios should dismiss lightly. While syndicators historically have earned their biggest dime from station distribution fees, ad sales for syndicated programming has skyrocketed over the past 10 years. This year estimates are it will hit $2.2 billion, up 7% from last year. That is nearly half of all the revenue syndicators get.
Ad buyers will tell you the NATPE convention is a powerful tool for focusing the national spotlight on the syndication business-one that would be lost if each studio hosted its own smaller programming preview across different weeks in the fall.
There have been other suggestions as well, such as the ad industry creating its own NATPE-style conference in February. This would be an acceptable alternative if the winter NATPE show goes away, but it would represent a significant loss for the syndication industry.
For a full week during NATPE, agency TV specialists, media buyers, financial analysts and the national media wallow in the best sales presentations the syndication industry can make. The value, in terms of growing syndication's