In the recent past, the big headlines in the syndication business have revolved around struggling local U.S. TV stations, but this year, that business is expected to continue rebounding (thanks in part to the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and upcoming Summer Olympics).

At NATPE’s January 2012 market, there will be an impressive number of first-run talk shows being offered to U.S. local stations (with big names like Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper tied to them). In many cases the new shows are a result of a loss of Oprah and the widespread cancellation of soap operas. But they’re also the result of local stations’ larger budgets.

To find out more about what’s happening in the syndication world, we consulted with Mitch Burg, president of the New York City-based Syndicated Network Television Association. SNTA is a non-profit organization that represents U.S. domestic television program syndicators; it’s an educational resource for the marketing and advertising communities.

VAI: Tell us a little about your plans for NATPE.
When I’m at NATPE I use it as an opportunity to spend time talking to the key broadcast executives. With station people, marketing people and production people all there, it’s a great opportunity.

VAI: Is it still a very important market for U.S. domestic syndicators?
NATPE has morphed. It’s focused on content, which is what the syndication business is all about.  The fact that we’re all together is invaluable.

VAI: Everyone’s talking about the plethora of first-runs hitting the U.S. market. What are your thoughts?
This is the year for first-run talk shows. There’s Katie Couric, Steve Harvey, Jeff Probst and Ricki Lake. We haven’t seen this kind of talk development in quite a while. It’s very, very exciting.

VAI: Which off-network programs are really soaring?
Two and a Half Men
is continuing to be strong. The Big Bang Theory is new [Editor’s note: Big Bang Theory’s second-run was held until 2011, until local stations had a bit more money to spend] and it’s just behind Men, doing a monster number. Most shows on network television aren’t doing how Big Bang is doing in syndication. There’s been a tremendous growth curve. How I Met Your Mother and Family Guy are both in double digit ratings. Newcomers It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and 30 Rock are doing well, too.  30 Rock is mostly late-night cleared and it has a young, affluent audience.

VAI: What’s new in the U.S. domestic syndication business?
About 95 percent of all major national TV spenders are spending in syndication already. There are three ways that syndication excels: One is we do multi-platform executions better than anyone, because we’re a year-round business, and can turn them around all year. When we develop an idea with a marketer it’s in-store, online, on-screen, etc.

Also, we’ve created the EIP — Exclusive Integrated Pod, which is 60 seconds of advertisements  (much shorter than network advertising). It allows clients to tie into the program, but also allows marketers in high clutter categories to really stand out.

Lastly, what one of our members has been doing is digitally inserting clients’ products into off-net shows. For example, we can put a pizza box on the table with an advertiser’s name on it.

Those are three new ways marketers are taking advantage of what syndication offers.

VAI: Why is U.S. domestic syndication a good place for advertisers to invest their money?
It’s about ratings. Syndication has the top ratings on Friday, for example. It’s not infrequent for syndication to have eight or nine of the top 10 shows on a Friday. How does this effect marketers? If you’re a movie theater, a retailer or casual dining restaurant, we reach more women from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM than all three networks combined on Friday.

We’re DVR proof — 90 percent of viewers are still watching shows live, and we have a higher commercial playback because 85 percent of spots run in the first commercial minute.

VAI: Does fragmentation of audiences affect syndication as network TV?
It’s just the opposite. Network ratings have fragmented, and declined to the degree that we have the most popular shows in TV. Fragmentation hasn’t impacted us. We’re on cable and network.

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