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Kids upfront falls behind

Networks and cable channels presented their 1998 kids schedules to media buyers in January, but advertisers aren't exactly rushing to purchase airtime. Typically, broadcast buys take place in February during a few frenzied days, with cable taking a few days longer,...
April 1, 1998

Networks and cable channels presented their 1998 kids schedules to media buyers in January, but advertisers aren’t exactly rushing to purchase airtime. Typically, broadcast buys take place in February during a few frenzied days, with cable taking a few days longer, owing to its increased complexity. This year, however, buyers still hadn’t made a move by late March, as the result of general hesitancy surrounding kids programming.

‘It’s a buyers’ marketplace-a time to be cautious,’ says a media buyer at a leading kids shop. ‘At first, we were hearing there were no [advertiser] budgets yet, then I heard that it was [the result of] Fox Family Channel coming in.’ Agencies know Fox Family Channel’s schedule for Monday through Friday, but kids blocks on Saturday and Sunday are still a question mark, according to media buyers. Speculation concerning what could be placed in these time slots ranges from kids movies to mystery shows to boys programming. None of these rumors has been confirmed by the channel.

Another mitigating factor is the stellar performance of ABC’s Disney’s One Saturday Morning-a new player this year that has upset the long-standing dominance of Fox Kids and Nickelodeon on Saturday morning. ‘[ABC's] Winnie the Pooh is incredible, pulling in a 4.5 rating,’ notes one media buyer.

Additional client issues coming into play include Hasbro’s purchase of Tiger Electronics, and Pepsi’s advertising account being up for review.

Regardless of the reasons for the delay, the stalemate is expected to be over in April, according to agency insiders. At that time, clients focus on adult-targeted buys, which have far higher stakes, says an agency source. ‘I can’t see clients focusing on kids [then] because that takes up so much time.’

One broadcaster relatively unscathed by the delay is Nickelodeon, which last year signed many advertisers to two-year deals. The kids channel is now attempting to persuade advertisers to add one or two years to those contracts, but reportedly has met with little success, due to high market volatility.

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