Kids' Upfront Picks Up Pace a Bit


There was some additional movement in the kids' upfront early last week, but the buying momentum may have stalled as time marched on and the major broadcast networks stole most of the spotlight with their presentations to advertisers.

Meanwhile, several industry sources wondered if networks were disseminating disinformation in the hopes of "goosing" the sluggish kids' marketplace.

Cartoon Network executives denied a published report last week which indicated that its kids' upfront inventory was half-sold.

Moreover, ad-agency sources indicated that Nickelodeon's kidvid upfront is 50 percent closed only because those deals involve a considerable number of two-year agreements and promotional tie-in pacts, such as its arrangement with Mattel Inc.

A MediaCom Worldwide source disputed a report that it had placed its kids' upfront buys on Cartoon Network and elsewhere.

"MediaCom has placed not one dollar in kids to date," he said last Wednesday.

Though some deals were inked near the end of the first week in May — including the first joint buys on Cartoon and The Kids WB, for several unidentified Starcom Worldwide clients — a Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. spokesman said those transactions did not push Cartoon's inventory anywhere near 50 percent sold.

Various industry sources said it was unlikely that much kids' business would be completed last week, because many media planners and buyers were attending the seven broadcast television networks' upfront presentations, where the fall schedules are unveiled.

Fox Family Worldwide Inc. executives also said MediaCom and Starcom Mediavest Group had yet to make a move by midweek.

Fox Family Worldwide executive vice president of ad sales Barbara Bekkedahl said Starcom Worldwide had completed kids' deals for both Fox Family and Fox Kids. She estimated that 25 percent of its kids' upfront business had been written by last Wednesday.

But Bekkedahl said other major buyers seem to be in no rush to wrap up their deals, even if that means talks would continue as the adult upfront gets underway. Among the buyers taking its time is Starcom Mediavest, which represents Burger King Corp. and Kraft Foods Corp., sources said.

Several sources said that MindShare USA, Zenith Media and Initiative Media Worldwide were among the shops that apparently had not concluded their kids' buying.

A year ago, the bulk of kids' upfront buying had concluded by late April, buyers recalled.