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Kids Upfront: The Games People Play

New York -- In the days before Nickelodeon's
kids' upfront presentation to advertisers, which is set for Feb. 11, the
network's top ad-sales executive said he's confident of "a strong
sellers' market," in which Nick and Cartoon Network should tally revenue gains
from last year.

Although he's "heard from a couple of
places" that some key buyers once again plan to delay the kids' upfront into
springtime, Sam Moser, Nick's senior vice president of ad sales, said, "Only
time will tell. There's always posturing on either side."

In recent years, Nick has advanced the kids' upfront
into February from its traditional spring timing.

Without offering a specific dollar or percentage estimate,
Moser said, "We expect [total cable upfront ad sales] to go up," compared with
the year-ago total of $450 million.

"We expect a very healthy marketplace, since GRPs
[gross rating points] were down 4 percent" compared with 1997, Moser said. He
anticipated "a strong sellers' market," in contrast to last year's
market, which seemed more favorable to buyers.

"There are more dollars chasing fewer rating points,
and Nickelodeon has 53 percent of those [rating points]," he boasted.

Since Fox Family Channel didn't perform up to its
projections, Moser felt that "Nick and Cartoon should benefit the most."
Executives at Fox Family, with its upfront pitch due today (Feb. 8), felt that it was too
soon to gauge the marketplace, but they do expect it to finish in the spring.

Clearly, Moser felt that Nick should again account for the
lion's share of the kids' upfront, since its primetime block averaged a 4.6
rating for kids two through 11 in Nielsen Media Research data for Sept. 7 through Dec. 27,

For competitive reasons, Moser refused to pin a percentage
on the number of its clients with two- and three-year deals that are due to expire.

Although Grey Worldwide's MediaCom media arm and TN
Media are expected to delay their buying into April at the earliest -- including those for
toy giants Hasbro Inc. and Mattel Inc., respectively -- Moser said other toy makers
"will start to percolate" in February, as the annual Toy Fair begins.

Toy companies tend to tell retail TV ad buyers of their
plans in hopes of persuading them to stock their toy lines.

Still, Jon Mandel, co-managing director at MediaCom, which
is believed to be the biggest kids' buyer, was adamant about waiting.

"We're not going to do it until springtime
late April, when it should be done. If you were to do it now, you wouldn't have any
clue what you were doing, and you wouldn't have any clue what you were selling,"
he said.

Last year's kids' market didn't wrap up
until June.

Moreover, Mandel added, "it's way too early"
to hazard a guess on the size of the kids' upfront.