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Syndie Hangs Tough

Syndicated program sales were heading for a great 2008, at least until the economy stalled in the fourth quarter.

Until then, sales increased by 9% from January to September versus the same period the prior year, the biggest gain since 2004, according to the Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA). It gets its data from TNS Media Intelligence.

That beats other TV ad categories. Syndication boasted $3.3 billion in sales for the first nine months compared to $3.03 billion during the same period last year.

Looking at a longer time frame—October 2007 to September 2008—ad revenue increased by 8.7%, the biggest gain since the period ending September 2005, when the sector added 7.5%. Between October 2007 and September 2008, syndication reported $4.44 billion in ad revenue.

Advertising categories that are growing in syndication include wireless, packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, retailers and restaurants, says Jordan Harris, SNTA's director of marketing. “Syndication is really a value story given today's economy,” he says.

SNTA has long been pitching the value of its programs, including a younger skew than for broadcast network shows; more commercials at the beginning of programs; shorter commercial pods; and less viewing via DVR, meaning that audiences of syndie shows are more likely to view the commercials.

Syndication sales significantly outpaced the overall television advertising market, which averaged 4.7% growth on $35.37 billion from January to September 2008, and 5.3% growth on $48.63 billion from October 2007 to September 2008 versus the same time periods in the prior year. That marked the best improvement the overall market had seen in five years. Of course, ad figures should be down for most media for the fourth quarter of 2008, when the country fell into a deep recession.

Network television grew by 3.3% from January to September, and 2.6% from October 2007 to September 2008. That was an improvement from the prior year, when ad spending fell by 2.6% and 2.4%, respectively, in both time periods.

Cable did a bit better, averaging 5.5% growth from January to September compared to the prior year, and 7.9% growth from October 2007 to September 2008. Cable's growth, while still robust, has leveled off since September 2005, when it improved by 13.6%.