Syndie Scatter No Gold Rush

Time is money. Unless it's second-quarter syndication scatter. "Clients spend what they're going to spend," says Donna Wolfe, executive VP/chief negotiation officer, Universal McCann. "There's some scatter activity, but it's not robust." She notes mid- to low-tier shows are selling without premiums.

Peter Butchen, senior VP, national broadcast, Initiative, agrees. "The better shows are seeing moderate increases, but there's inventory available." He puts scatter vs. upfront increases as ranging from flat to up 10%, "even slightly negative," he adds. "Packaged goods and entertainment are active, with pharmaceuticals and telecom relatively slow."

"Overall, the market has not been active," admits Gibbs Haljun, VP, MediaVest. "There are opportunities out there."

But Howard Levy, executive VP, ad sales, Buena Vista Television, tells a different tale. "Pharmaceutical spending is through the roof, and we're getting good money from packaged goods. When that category is healthy, it's a good sign."

The star turn this season is Ellen DeGeneres. "Ellen
is pacing quite well," says Bob Flood, executive VP, national electronic media, Optimedia. "It's the one show with momentum. Late-night shows also are doing well." Carat supervisor Andrew Ladas notes Warner Bros. has scored with DeGeneres, but "they're not selling it at what they [projected]. They've had to hold back bonus units."

SNTA's March 11 conference seeks to polish syndication's image, but the ratings specter looms. "They need to look at ratings estimates against new properties," says Wolfe, pronouncing them "often overly optimistic."