Trade org predicts 8% to 10% hike in sales

The syndication upfront advertising sales market kicked into high gear Thursday as buyers and sellers scrambled to lock down more than $2 billion in advance national ad commitments for the 1999-2000 season.

Media buyers reported strong demand among big-ticket advertisers for syndie ad inventory, fueled in part by fears that the broadcast webs will hold out for significant price hikes when their upfront market breaks in late May-early June.

Getting head start

“The packaged-goods guys and other big buyers like to move in early and lay in a base (with syndie ads), and that gives them more flexibility when they go into the rest of the market,” said Joe Mandese, editor of the Myers Report ad industry newsletter.

Syndie distribs typically sell up to 80% of their ad inventory during the upfront frenzy, with the remaining units held back for the “scatter” market sales throughout the season.

Overall, the Syndicated Network Television Assn. trade org was projecting an 8%-10% increase in total ad dollars committed to syndication. The final tally could reach $2.3 billion-$2.4 billion, up from this season’s $2.2 billion, according to SNTA prexy Allison Bodenmann.

Mitsubishi was cited as one of the major advertisers devoting more coin to syndication this year on the advice of its new agency, Deutsch Inc.

Buyers estimated that the lower-end syndie fare would generate single-digit gains in the cost-per-thousand viewers (CPM) rates used to determine the price of 30-second spots. Highly rated, advertiser-friendly firstrun and off-net fare like “Oprah Winfrey,” “Entertainment Tonight,” “Friends” and “The X-Files” well may command CPM hikes of 10%-15%.

Holding court

Courtshows “Judge Joe Brown” and “Judge Mills Lane” were among the daytime strips securing big increases after turning in better-than-expected rating performances this season.

In other upfront-related news, Tribune Entertainment has inked a deal with Universal to handle the national ad sales for Polygram TV’s syndie skeins, including the upcoming strip “Blind Date,” and the weeklies “The Crow: Stairway to Heaven,” “Total Recall 2070″ and “Motown Live.”

Universal, which is folding Polygram TV into its Universal Television & Networks Group, lost its inhouse domestic ad sales arm when the studio’s domestic TV assets were sold to Barry Diller’s USA Networks.

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