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Syndicators Hoping to Cash In at 10

CBS and ABC have made it clear that they think competing against Jay Leno at 10 p.m. will work to their advantage. Turns out syndicators think so, too.

With that in mind and the upfront season in full swing, the New York-based Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) released a report noting: “High ratings, younger-skewing programs, better efficiency and superior commercial delivery in households with digital video recorders make syndication the ideal alternative to network prime at 10 p.m.”

Many late-fringe syndicated shows, which are for the most part off-net sitcoms and entertainment magazines, compete well with the major broadcast networks, according to Nielsen. The ratings service found that syndication's top 10-rated 10 o'clock programs averaged a 2.4 live-plus-three commercial rating among adults 18-49 during this year's March sweeps period.

By that measure, syndication's top-rated 10 p.m. shows beat last-place NBC's 10 p.m. average, which came in at a 2.3. CBS was first with a 2.9, and ABC next at a 2.5. While Leno's numbers remain to be seen until his show is on the air, predictions often come in just below a 2.0 in the demo.

Even though syndication's ratings are on par with the networks' at 10 p.m., advertisements on syndicated programming cost 44% less, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The SNTA says that makes syndication a value buy in this challenged media economy.

“Marketers can get much more for their money at 10 p.m. by buying syndication,” says Mitch Burg, president of SNTA.

Ad buyers say syndication's biggest advantage is that it allows advertisers to buy specific programs. Top-rated late-fringe shows, such as Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men, represent a good deal for marketers, according to Francois Lee, VP and activation director at MediaVest.

“There are certain shows in syndication that we could compare to primetime and there's definitely a value proposition there, but we have to look at exactly what shows we are buying,” Lee says. “If I look at the top 20 shows, I still see a clear advantage in buying broadcast prime over syndication.”

SNTA's pitch goes on to say that viewers of syndicated programs at 10 p.m. are younger than those watching network shows. Warner Bros.' off-net sitcom George Lopez is 10 p.m.'s youngest-skewing program with an average age of 23, while NBC Universal's Access Hollywood is the oldest at an average age of 49.

All three networks' average ages are older in the hour. At 50, ABC is the youngest, followed by NBC at 51 and CBS at 55. And while Leno might age down when his show premieres at 10 p.m. this fall, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, airing at 11:35 p.m. ET, had an average age of 54.

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