Kids Upfront Ad Sales Generally Flat

4/25/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

New York -- The 1999-2000 kids' upfront ad-sales
marketplace mostly wrapped last week, according to several cable-network sources, who
estimated cable's share to be even with or slightly ahead of the $450 million total
of a year ago.

Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. executives said Cartoon
Network increased its share of children's-oriented cable-network ad sales, due to
distribution and ratings gains in the first quarter of 1999.

Cartoon's distribution rose 16 percent, and its
Nielsen Media Research ratings jumped 41 percent among kids aged two through 11 and 50
percent among kids six through 11 in that period.

Although Turner wouldn't comment on costs per thousand
homes (CPMs), other sources estimated that Cartoon's CPMs were "flat to slightly

Cartoon's executives cited particularly strong upfront
growth in the electronics and entertainment categories, in addition to "three or
four" integrated-marketing partnerships.

One year ago, Turner accounted for an estimated $100
million of the kids' upfront, with Fox Family Channel at around $35 million.

The latest kids' upfront was held back by a softness
in the toy industry's retail sales last year, cable sources said, as well as by
changes in strategy by some marketers.

"It's accurate to some extent" that some
deals are on hold due to CPM disagreements, Fox Family sources said, adding that the
network is "pretty much even with last year in upfront dollars."

Industry sources said the objective of cable in general,
and of Fox Family in particular, was to "hold the line on CPMs, and for the most
part, they did so."

Although major buyers like Grey Worldwide's MediaCom,
Leo Burnett USA's Starcom and TN Media Inc. were finished or nearly finished, there
still appeared to be some gaps. Some General Mills Inc. cereal business reportedly had yet
to be finalized, while Kellogg Co. was said to be skewing its latest buys toward older

Toy-maker Mattel Inc., which is in the midst of an account
review and layoffs, has been "on the sidelines," as one cable official put it,
adding that the toy giant may well hold back for the post-upfront scatter marketplace,
despite the risk of paying higher prices. Or it may opt for some other promotional
strategy, other cable sources speculated.

MTV Networks' president of U.S. ad sales, John
Popkowski downplayed the importance of the kids' upfront for Nickelodeon. "It
really doesn't affect us much anymore," he said. "There's no specific
week for us. We do 'em [deals] 52 weeks a year."

Nick "did two deals" during the April upfront, he
added, in the toy and packaged-goods fields. "Overall, our billing is up and our
pricing is up."

Popkowski disputed a published report that Nick was rolling
back CPMs for key clients. "We're not in the business of price rollbacks,"
he said.

A year ago, Nick accounted for an estimated $300 million of
the upfront.

On the broadcast side, the upfront was believed to have
matched the year-ago $750 million total, with ABC and The WB Television Network being the
big gainers.

One or two hot shows can make a big difference in the
volatile kids' market, sources said, citing the popular Pokemon series as a
key to The WB's growing fortunes.

Broadcast-television and cable networks' sales are
negotiated at the same time during the kids' upfront period, unlike the general
upfront, during which ad-agency buyers traditionally buy time on TV networks first before
turning to cable.

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