Syndication: A Safe Ad Haven in Stormy Seas

As syndicators pay visits to advertisers and media buyers, their message is one of safety and stability. Place your advertising in our hands, they say, and your spots will air in an environment that offers no surprises.

That staid message might not work well on a dating app, but for buyers trying to figure out how to spend a budget against an ever-shifting media environment, it’s nice to know there’s a safe place to land.

“We are a very reliable option for marketers,” John O’Hara, executive VP of brand networks, Warner Bros. Entertainment, said. “We see that year after year in terms of them returning to us.”

Besides talk, court and game shows, syndication also offers entertainment magazines and off-network animated and live-action sitcoms, all of which reach more than 90% of the country and boast steady ratings. That level of reach is becoming a unique asset as cable loses subscribers to cord-cutting.

“One of the benefits of syndication has always been its reach,” Twentieth Television senior VP and general manager of media sales Jodi Chisarick said. “Cable isn’t really a reach vehicle, it’s a frequency vehicle, but they no longer have that national footprint.”

Off-network sitcoms also have a tried-and-true formula, which is to offer national advertisers an exclusive one-minute pod composed of two 30-second spots in a show’s first break. Syndication has been doing that for years, but NBC just picked up on that idea and showcased it as the “prime pod” in its plan to revamp its ad model. Brand integrations are also continuing to grow as a significant source of revenue for syndicators, with shows such as Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres, Extra and The Real, Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams and CBS Television Distribution’s Rachael Ray serving as very friendly environments for marketing partners.

This year, Ellen partnered with brands such as Walmart and Cheerios on integrations. Cheerios worked with Ellen on a campaign called “A Million Acts of Good” that rewarded people who are doing good in the world with things like new cars, while Walmart partnered with the show to help send an entire senior class to college — a gift worth $1.6 million.

Said Ellen executive producer Mary Connelly in a sizzle video for ad buyers: “If you’re willing to play with us, if you’re willing to be flexible, we want to be in business with you.”

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.