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SNTA polishes syndie image

Gene DeWitt, president of the new and improved Syndicated Network Television Association, hits the road this week armed with new data about why advertisers should be lining up to buy syndicated TV product.

DeWitt's target audience comprises some 34 major TV advertisers that, for various reasons, avoid syndication entirely or use not nearly enough of it to suit him.

SNTA, a trade organization whose members include Warner Bros., Paramount, King World, Twentieth Television, Heritage Networks, Tribune, Universal Television and Buena Vista Television, is in a big push to expand its ad base, and its image.

High on the to-woo list are the automakers. Others are P&G and Johnson & Johnson and other major packaged-goods companies; McDonald's, Burger King, and other fast-food chains; major retailers; and credit-card companies.

Before he hits the big advertisers, though, DeWitt will be calling on their agencies (because, as he puts it, it would be "the kiss of death" not to).

Key targets there are the media planners. DeWitt thinks that, in the past, syndicators weren't effectively hyping themselves.

And, he adds, agency consolidation has reduced staff and increased workloads. The average media planner has two to three years' experience in the job, says DeWitt. "So there's less time to learn." He hopes to remedy that with the road-show presentation.

The basic pitch of the new presentation is that, in most ways, syndication television is network television: same shows, same stations, same producers and same viewers. Except syndication is bigger (more total shows, more originals and more hours than the six networks combined) and sometimes has better reach (in daytime, for example). It's also a lot less expensive.

"The same people who watch Friends
at 8 o'clock watch it at 11 in syndication," says DeWitt. He makes the point to dispel what he says is the perception that the syndication audience is much more downscale than the crowd that tunes in Thursdays on NBC.

And Friends' syndication audience is bigger than the average prime time audience across the four major networks. Yet the cost per thousand viewers (adults 18-49) for a sitcom in syndication is roughly $16.50, roughly 30% less than the $23 average CPM for a network sitcom. "As an advertiser," DeWitt asks, "why wouldn't you want to take advantage of that?"

The presentation also notes that syndication has the national reach of broadcast networks, with 90%-plus distribution for most shows, while many cable networks are distributed in far fewer homes, often just 60% or 70%.

In daytime, syndication's reach is better than the networks', says DeWitt. Buy 50 rating points on the Big Three and you'll reach about 25% of the women 18-49 audience, but buy 50 rating points in syndication and you'll reach about 37% of that demo. "We don't say buy only syndication. What we say is, if you only buy the networks in daytime, your reach will never go above this level. Why would you want to do that?"

The presentation makes similar points about the other key syndication dayparts and program types, including prime access (which DeWitt calls "pre-prime"), film packages, late night, as well as genres not covered by the networks, such as instructional and sci-fi.

DeWitt is psyched: "We can't wait to talk to advertisers about these opportunities."

SNTA has about 75 core advertisers today. About 300 advertisers buy TV. Many of those will get a call from DeWitt, and all of them will be invited to SNTA's first annual two-day conference, in New York next February, dominated by one-on-one presentations between buyers and sellers.