New York -- Although some key agency buyers have been
saying that they're not ready to deal, Nickelodeon has 'quietly' made some
kids' upfront deals with others in recent weeks, chiefly for its newly expanded
So said John Popkowski, executive vice president of ad
sales for MTV Networks, who last week termed himself bullish on the marketplace, given the
fact that the U.S. economy is so healthy and that it has not yet caught 'the Asian
flu' -- meaning that ad budgets, too, will be healthy.
Popkowski disclosed two Nickelodeon clients that are in:
Johnson & Johnson in the shampoo category, and Burger King Corp. in fast foods. Burger
King, indeed, has made a 'huge' buy on Nick, in part to tie in with The
Rugrats Movie, due in theaters this Thanksgiving. (Kraft Foods will also be
contributing to a combined $75 million of tie-in marketing support behind that movie,
according to Nickelodeon ads in toy trade magazines distributed last week at the Toy
Popkowski would neither project a total 1998 kids'
upfront sales figure nor comment on Nickelodeon's share, except to say that published
estimates for Nick are too low.
Myers Consulting Group has estimated Nick's 1998
upfront at $270 million, up $20 million. The bulk of those dollars were committed in
long-term deals signed a year or more ago and running through the third quarter of 1999.
Nick, which locked in two-year deals in 1995, extended some in subsequent years.
A possible complication for the kids' upfront could
emerge from yet another toy-industry consolidation last week, when Hasbro Toys announced
its intent to acquire Tiger Electronics Inc. for $335 million. Tiger was among the
companies piggybacking on Bandai Ltd.'s Tamagotchi 'virtual pets' craze
Popkowski said that might mean a cut in ad spending,
although he added that Tiger would still have to advertise. In the past couple of years,
No. 2 toy-maker Hasbro has absorbed Kenner Products, while leader Mattel Toys has acquired
Tyco Toys, among others.
Of the 580 kids' gross rating points generated weekly,
Popkowski estimated that Nickelodeon represents 310 GRPs, or 56 percent. Even with a more
aggressive Cartoon Network and newcomer Fox Family Channel added to the fray, he fully
expects Nick to command a 50 percent-plus market share into 2000.
Popkowski said ad-agency buyers like to play both sides
against the middle in dealing with the networks. In dealing with Nick, he said,
they'll talk up the competition, but they'll then leverage their Nick deals into
lower prices at Fox and other networks by saying, 'There's not much money
left,' after their Nick buys.
The kids' upfront market is unified because
advertisers don't differentiate between cable and broadcast, said Betsy Frank,
executive vice president of research and development for MTVN. And neither do kids, Frank
said, while giving reporters an overview on kids' television.
Cable, she said, accounts for more than 75 percent of
kids' GRPs, with Cartoon's 19 percent a distant second to Nickelodeon.
While Fox Family is the latest challenger, due in
mid-August, Frank said another on the horizon is Jim Henson Television's plan for a
family-appeal cable channel headed by onetime Fox Kids Worldwide Inc. executive Margaret
'Competition is going to be a fact of life' for
Nick, she said.
Frank announced that an MTVN study on the use of media and
leisure time is currently being researched in the field, trying to determine how kids and
teen-agers are using their time -- 'not just media time,' but movies, sports and