Ad Execs See Flattish Kids Upfront

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In an otherwise "vibrant, hot marketplace," the
kids' market is "the exception to the rule," The Myers Group LLC senior
vice president Joe Mandese said.

There's not that much money working [in the kids'
sector]," he added. "The traditional budgets are not growing [in toys, cereals
and the like]."

Nor are there any strong new categories. "Maybe
dot-com," he said, although the bulk of that spending is targeting adults.

Consequently, the kids' cable upfront may see only
"small increases for inflation" versus the year-ago total of $450 million,
Mandese said.

Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. executives, on the other
hand, felt that relatively new categories such as apparel, entertainment, computers and
personal hygiene should once again prove strong for Cartoon Network in the upfront.

Like Turner, Nickelodeon "is pursuing categories that
typically do not spend against kids," MTV Networks president of U.S. ad sales John
Popkowski said.

As examples, he cited recent deals with PepsiCo Inc.,
Gateway Inc. and the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, adding that Gateway alone
has committed $20 million across three years. "We see a lot of new money coming to
us," he said.

Mandese also attributed this market's relative
flatness in part to "an abundant, growing supply of kids' impressions."

McCann-Erickson WorldGroup executive vice president Bill
Cella concurred that there's "an overabundance of kids' GRPs [gross rating
points]" that will work in the buyers' favor.

Although a scarcity in inventory due to political
advertising and the Summer Olympic Games may raise rates in primetime and other dayparts,
no such pressures will affect the kids' daypart, Mandese added.

Anticipating "no huge CPM [cost-per-thousand]
increases" for kids' networks, he felt that most sellers are being
"cautiously optimistic for moderate growth." But TBSI executives were bullish
that Cartoon will get higher CPMs, without saying how high.

Popkowski was similarly bullish on Nick's outlook just
before that network's Madison Avenue pitch last Thursday. He dismissed negative
kids' upfront assessments as being part of the annual pre-upfront sparring and
posturing between buyers and sellers.

Saying it's too soon to project a total upfront dollar
figure, Popkowski said he looks at cable and TV as one upfront, and at Nick as the leader,
with "50 percent of the market in GRPs." Nick amassed an estimated $300
million-plus in the 1999 upfront.

Mandese looked to Time Warner Inc.'s The WB Television
Network -- despite its being what he dubbed "a one-trick pony" via the popular Pokemon
series -- and Cartoon as having the best shot at making sales inroads against Nickelodeon.

One new wrinkle in Turner's kids' upfront, its
executives said, will be selling cross-media packages that combine Cartoon with TV and Web
assets.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon has long been offering cross-media
deals spanning cable, magazines, online and merchandising, Popkowski noted.

Despite relatively flat Nielsen Media Research ratings,
Mandese said, "Nick is still a base deal for many [clients], but some will try to buy
around it."

One way could be via multiyear deals, he guessed, adding
that these deals could protect those clients from one year hence, when Nick will formally
be part of the Viacom Inc./CBS Corp. cross-media colossus, and it may take a stiffer
bargaining stance. This fall, "Nick Jr." cartoons will also turn up on CBS'
Saturday-morning slate.

As for rumors that after eight years of booking multiyear
deals, Nickelodeon may no longer do so, Popkowski said, "Some [networks] are licking
their chops" at the prospect of pursuing those freed-up clients. "[But] whether
or not we go forward [with multiple-year deals] is something I'm not going to discuss
[in the press]."

Reacting to one buyer's forecast, published elsewhere,
that the upfront might ultimately be done away with as clients increasingly make better
deals in the scatter market, Popkowski doubted that scenario.

That tactic, he added, would be "a risky
proposition" for buyers that concentrate their activity in the fourth quarter, as
their most attractive avails would likely be bought in the upfront.

Meanwhile, in this climate of high supply and lower demand,
Fox Family Channel may face more resistance from buyers than before in both the kids'
and adult markets because its makeover has not yet measured up to expectations, Mandese
said.

Cella agreed that Fox Family would be among programmers
facing what he termed "a challenging kids' upfront."

Most officials seemed to agree with Fox Family ad-sales
president Rick Sirvaitis, who said, "I suspect that it will [wrap] the same time as
last year, in April."

Executives at TBSI said, "early April," which
some doubted mainly because The WB's kids' upfront pitch is due April 4.

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