Syndie On Roll, Says SNTA

Nationally syndicated TV shows are on a ratings roll, while cable is slipping. Or so goes the latest sales pitch from the Syndicated Network Television Association.

The group, which promotes the advertising prowess of syndicated programming on behalf of producers and distributors, says syndicated household ratings climbed 5.2% from October 2004 to January 2005, compared to the comparable 2003-2004 period.

Overall, the broadcast networks grew ratings slightly in the period with a 0.4% increase, and ratings for the 59 Nielsen-rated, ad-supported cable nets, were off 1.4%, SNTA says.Returning hit favorites are fueling the growth, says SNTA President Mitch Burg, with eight series, including Ellen, Oprah, Judge Mathis, and Jeopardy, posted double-digit increases. "We are doing first-run, original programming and a lot of it," Burg said.

This year, only four new first-run shows (with Tyra Banks, Martha Stewart, Judge Alex and the revival of Current Affair) are making it to market, the lowest total in recent years. But Burg put a postive spin on that, too, suggesting it demonstrated the power of returning shows. "We have such strength coming back, it is good we only have four new shows," he said. "Eight to 10 shows would just fragment the audience more."

The sales pitch comes as SNTA kicked off its road show to advertisers in New York  in advance of the upfront selling season, where advertisers and programmers set ad prices.

Syndicators are trying to build on last year's strong performance--a $3.9 billion tally, up 16% from 2003. Early 2005 projections call for low-single-digit growth. Syndicators are trying to pump up more integrated product deals, like Oprah's famous Pontiac car giveaway.

Other recent examples include Heinken on Blind Date and Entertainment Tonight's Crest White Strips-sponsored Smile of the Day.  "These are examples of great extensions," Burg said.