No matter how you look at it, the once-active kids syndication biz is barely even registering a blip on the kids TV radar. ‘Syndication’s really gone away completely-I don’t think anybody’s left,’ says Tom Horner, senior VP of media services at Active International. ‘Five, 10 years ago, that was the business. And that kind of very quietly over the years just disappeared.’ That’s because Fox, the WB and UPN, as they’ve emerged as networks and signed on affiliates, have taken over time periods that previously would have aired syndicated fare.
Indeed, Buena Vista Television’s exclusive agreement with UPN to air its Disney’s One Too Sunday and Monday through Friday syndicated blocks means it’s essentially out of the market. And, after looking to develop into a network, BKN’s Bulldog TV and BKN services went off the air about a year after their August 1999 debut. The company (formerly Bohbot Entertainment and Media) had begun in kids syndication in 1992. Nadia Nardonnet, president of Paris- and Cologne-based BKN International, says the company is now focusing on the U.S. market by selling ‘to networks based on the quality of a show, rather than the media dollars you can spend.’
When it comes to kids ages two to 11 gross rating points (GRPs), the numbers tell the same story. Syndication’s share of total GRPs among all kids outlets fell from 1.2% in Q4 1999 to 0.0% in Q4 2000, according to a Horizon Media analysis of Nielsen data. That’s a sharp drop from 21.1% in Q4 1994, the year before WB and UPN landed on the scene. The growth of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Fox Family Channel has also been drawing viewers from syndicated fare, says Brad Adgate, senior VP, corporate research director at Horizon Media. ‘I don’t think there are more than a handful of [syndicated] shows [remaining],’ says Adgate.
Finally, kids ages two to 11 spent just 0.01 hours per week watching syndicated programming in fourth quarter 2000, down from 0.09 hours in’99 and 0.27 hours in ’98, according to TN Media’s Kids 4th Quarter 2000 Review.