Kids' Upfront 2008

Market Expected to Be Flat, at Just Under $1 Billion

Food Ads Will Level Off; Networks Look to Movie Studios to Keep Spending | Also: Nick vs. CN

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- Commercial ratings once again will be all the rage for broadcast and cable in this year's upfront, but over at the kids' networks, it's a different story.
Jim Perry, Nickelodeon's sales chief
Jim Perry, Nickelodeon's sales chief

The majority of kids' programming is still viewed live or live-plus same-day, with an average drop off of 2% to 3% after Nielsen's live-plus-three commercial ratings are factored in. Despite that seeming advantage, the kids' upfront market this year is expected to be flat, hovering at just below $1 billion. Last year's upfront market grew 5% over 2006's take of $950 million.

Jim Perry, Nickelodeon's sales chief, said the 2007-08 kids' marketplace was delayed in anticipation of commercial ratings that ultimately had little impact on the market's business. "It's not going to be a major issue with us, and we don't anticipate it to slow our market down this year," he said.

Cartoon Network, which retained 97% of its audience after the currency switch, saw its supply slip slightly but maintained higher costs per thousand viewers during the competitive fourth-quarter sales period. "When you have a supply so pressurized, even a 3% hit like that can factor into a tighter marketplace at that time," said John O'Hara, senior VP of ad sales at Cartoon.

Cross-channel metric
The networks would like to develop a more-sophisticated metric, one to encapsulate the viewing patterns among kids and their parents as they move online and across different channels. Nickelodeon, for one, has been successful at growing its online revenue, and a measure that reflects its audience across all the channels would help develop that business even more.

Initial supply growth for this year's market is projected to be flat to slightly up, due largely to stabilized ratings at Disney and Cartoon Network. Cable isn't the only place kids are getting their TV fixes, though it's become a bigger part of their diet in the past decade. Since 1997, Nickelodeon has been the top-rated network in the Saturday-morning daypart for kids 2 to 11. In 2006 alone, the network averaged 4.5 million total viewers in the demo vs. the CW, the highest-rated broadcast network in the competing timeslot, with 1.6 million. As a result, more kids' dollars have shifted to Nickelodeon during the crucial daypart, taking in $49.65 million from 5 a.m. to 11:59 a.m. in 2006, the most recent year for which figures are available. That's enough to rank it fourth overall in total network spend on Saturday morning, behind CBS with $51.3 million, NBC with $67.8 million and money leader ABC with $75 million, a dollar figure based largely on the strength of its lineup of Disney reruns.

Kids: platform agnostic
Jim Tricarico, Nickelodeon's senior VP-ad sales, chalked up the increased demand for his network and its inventory to the fact that kids are more platform-agnostic than programmers give them credit for. "Kids now understand that Nickelodeon is channel 33 and maybe CBS is channel 2, but they just understand that Nickelodeon is the channel they go to regardless of whatever competitors they may turn to on the dial," he told Ad Age in an earlier interview. "You never hear a kid say, 'I'm going to watch broadcast TV today.'"

While food-marketer spending is expected to level off, the kids' networks are counting on movie studios to continue to spend. "There's an incredible correlation between our marketplace and Hollywood," said Dan Barnathan, president-ad sales at 4Kids Entertainment, a group that sells Saturday-morning programming for Fox and the CW. "When a movie comes out of Hollywood -- and not just theatrical but direct to DVD, too -- you find there's a video game attached to the movie, a toy, fast-food tie-in, package goods."

Source: Nielsen Media Research

Tale of the Tape: Nickelodeon Vs. Cartoon Network

The Disney Channel may reign in prime time but you can't place ads there. As far as ad-friendly TV environments for kids go, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network totally rule. Here's a breakdown of the key issues on the table for the titans in this year's upfront.
OWNER Viacom Time Warner's Turner Entertainment
UPFRONT EVENT March 13 at Hammerstein Ballroom, New York April 3 at Terminal Five, New York
AD-SALES EXECS Jim Perry, exec VP-ad sales, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group; Jim Tricarico, senior VP-ad sales, Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group Beth Goss, exec VP-ad sales, marketing and enterprises; John O'Hara, senior VP-ad sales
2007's FULL-YEAR TAKE $992.1 million $293.2 million (Source: TNS Media Intelligence)
TOP PROGRAMS "SpongeBob SquarePants," "Dora the Explorer," "iCarly," "The Naked Brothers Band" "Ben 10," "Chowder," "Star Wars: The Clone Wars"
DEMOGRAPHICS "Nick scores best with kids 2 to 11; more than 5.5 million of them regularly tune in to "SpongeBob" alone each week. Girls 12 to 17 also turn out in big numbers for shows such as "Zoey 101," "Unfabulous" and "iCarly." Adults 25 to 54 share virtually identical viewing habits to kids 2 to 11, which is where parents' co-viewing comes in. Cartoon's sweet spot is with boys 6 to 11, who made "Ben 10," "Chowder" and "Code Name: Kids Next Door" the network's highest-rated shows last year. Teens 12 to 17 tune in for "Goosebumps" and "Dragon Ball-Z," while adults 25 to 54 appear to be a mix of parents and nostalgic viewers tuning in to catch "Tom and Jerry" or "Scooby Doo" reruns and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
COMMERCIAL RATINGS An average of dropoff of 1% with Nielsen's C3 ratings An average dropoff of 2% to 3%
HEALTH INITIATIVES Holds an annual "Go Out and Play Day" in September, with marketing partners such as Kellogg matching its $100,000 donations to build up health-and-wellness programs in local schools. Recently introduced "Get Animated" program, partnering with Action for Healthy Kids and National PTA as well as in-store promotions in more than 1,900 Albertson's grocery stores.
KEY SELLING POINTS Co-viewing among kids and parents makes adults just as prime a target as their offspring. Nick soon will have more-granular research from agencies such as Starcom to show specific commercial-ratings data and consumption patterns online. Major gaming audience online and potential for in-game integrations. The fourth quarter is still essential to game and toy manufacturers targeting young boys.
BUYER'S TAKE "Nick continues to provide strong opportunities by catering to their viewers with 360-degree offerings that span TV, print, event, online experiences, video, games ... and the list goes on," said Jackie Kulesza, VP-broadcast activation director for Starcom. "Cartoon is dedicated to new programming that speaks to its core audience, and its recent partnership with George Lucas and 'Clone Wars' is a perfect example of this," Ms. Kulesza said.
Most Popular