O'Donnell top draw at surging ad mart

NEW YORK — Warner Bros. Domestic TV’s “Rosie,” the smash-hit daytime-talkshow hosted by Rosie O’Donnell, is chalking up advertising rate increases of 40% and higher for the 1997-98 season, highlighting an upfront marketplace for barter syndication that could end up at a record $2.2 billion.

“Strong advertiser demand has made this one of the best upfronts I’ve seen,” says Tim Duncan, executive director of the Advertiser Syndicated TV Assn., a trade organization that represents 13 barter syndicators, including Warner Bros., Universal, Twentieth and Buena Vista.

Duncan says the $2.2 billion figure would represent a 10% increase over the revenues pocketed by barter syndicators during the 1996-97 upfront, adding that advertisers are funneling dollars into all dayparts. The national-advertising minutes in “Rosie” and new strips like “Martha Stewart Living” and the revamped “People’s Court” are boosting daytime revenues, while the barter in such off-network sitcoms as “Seinfeld,” “Home Improvement,” “The Simpsons,” and, starting this fall, “Frasier” have speeded up the cash flow to what the industry calls “early prime” (4 to 8 p.m.).

Jon Barovick,VP of advertiser sales for Tribune Entertainment, says he’s getting good rates for Tribune’s new weekly action hours “Gene Roddenberry’s Battleground Earth” and “Night Man,” energized by the continued audience growth of Universal’s hit weeklies “Hercules” and “Xena.”

Two hourlong latenight variety hours are also harvesting surprisingly solid rates for rookie shows, according to Duncan: Columbia TriStar TV’s “Vibe” and Buena Vista TV’s “The Keenan Ivory Wayans Show.”

Bob Dahill, VP and general sales manager of MTM Advertiser Sales, says, “Advertisers are looking to place money in syndication to hedge their bets” against the huge increases the broadcast networks are preparing to put forward later this month when they finish drawing up their primetime schedules for 1997-98.

Buying early

“The advertisers want to lay down a base in syndication,” says Mike Weiden, president of advertising sales for All American TV. By purchasing time on syndicated shows early, Weiden continues, advertising executives “can lock in efficient buys, preparing themselves to do battle with the broadcast networks, which will come at them very hard” with aggressive price hikes.

Generating dark clouds over Madison Avenue, he says, is the stated goal of the networks to break the $6 billion barrier for this upfront season, compared with about $5.5 billion for the 1996-97 upfront.

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