As the upfront approaches, Judy Kenny, executive VP/ad sales at 20th Television, is pleased when clients and media buyers praise the syndicator for selling more than repeats.
For years, while cable networks pioneered integrated advertising approaches and multi-platform packages, syndicators fell behind. “Over the past year and a half, we’ve been focusing on being better creative partners to our advertisers,” Kenny says. “What that means is trying to figure out a way to marry up the content of our shows with advertisers’ brand messaging.”
One new way 20th proposes to do that is by offering to put a sponsor’s name on the studio where Wendy Williams produces her talk show. Whatever company buys it would get a shout-out at the beginning of each episode, signage around the set and integrations with Williams during the show.
The naming rights “would be annual to start,” Kenny says. “If someone were interested in a multiyear deal, we could certainly talk about it. Wouldn’t you?”
Integrating advertisers into original content is easier than with off-net shows, yet this past season, 20th found a way to do that as well. It’s called an exclusive integrated pod: The sponsor takes over one of the one-minute national pods in a show such as How I Met Your Mother. The first 30 seconds features clips from the show related to the sponsor’s product; the second 30 is a commercial.
To take it one step further, 20th uses virtual imaging technology from Seam- BI to digitally insert the sponsor’s product into the scene. Next year, the EIPs will be enhanced because SeamBI has worked out a way to take moving cars in scenes from shows and change the make and model. “It’s really cutting-edge, very, very cool,” says Kenny, who will be selling the enhancement in this year’s upfront. “It’s not something we’re pushing on people, but I’d say most people are interested in figuring out how to make their money work more for them by surrounding the commercials which they paid so much for.”
Still in the works is a multi-platform approach for clients that want ad packages with online media. “That’s going to be the area we’re going to be focusing on more and more moving forward,” Kenny says.
Kenny adds that 20th has already begun a pre-upfront tour of 300 sales meetings over the next two months. The presentation’s theme is “The Content You Want, the Company You Keep,” and one of the things it emphasizes is that while 20th is best known for shows that attract young men, it actually commands the biggest share of 18-to-49 demo gross ratings points of any syndicator, with 25%. CBS, often thought of as the leader because of The Oprah Winfrey Show, is second with 24%, according to Kenny.
Kenny says the meetings are important because it’s how she gets feedback from clients about what works and what doesn’t. It’s also important not to assume busy buyers know what 20th has to sell from year to year.
Among off-net shows, the syndicator’s big winners are Family Guy and How I Met Your Mother. In first run, in addition to Wendy Williams, 20th has court shows Judge Alex and Divorce Court. “Because there was a real dearth in networks’ daytime, some advertisers found their way into the court shows, so it’s been a wonderful year for our court shows,” Kenny says.
This year, 20th is also bringing off-net shows to the upfront. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Futurama should enhance the syndicator’s standing with young viewers, as should the new original series On the Spot (a less mean-spirited take on the Tonight Show’s “Jaywalking” bit); Jeremy Kyle, featuring the British talk show host; and the weekly Point Dume, starring Brian Bosworth and produced by Baywatch’s Greg Bonan.
The future also looks bright, with Glee and Modern Family a few years away from syndication. “When people say, ‘So what’s the future of syndication,’ all you have to do is mention those two shows and they go, oh,” Kenny says.
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