04-05 Network Upfront Ad Market Proves Vigorous, For Kids Anyway

The 2004-05 upfront network TV ad marketplace got off to a robust start last week, for marketers seeking to reach the youngest adverting targets, anyway. With a momentum not seen in recent years, the major kids TV networks claim to have written more than half their 2004-05 upfront kids business in a flurry of deals last week that reaped double-digit ad CPM gains. The actual upfront kids dollar volume gain is unclear, because of conflicting views over what the actual base of the market was over the past several years, but with more than half of 2004-05 kids upfront ad deals done, the market now is expected to expand by at least high single-digits.

The growth came from a wide variety of categories, especially from food marketers, which have recently come under review for targeting kids with ads that promote overeating and contribute to obesity, a development that potentially could lead to regulations or litigation curtailing such ads aimed at children. Other hot categories include traditional heavyweight toys, as well as an expanding entertainment software category (videogames, DVDs) and other consumer electronics products.



While the 2004-05 kids market has broken later than in previous high-demand years when business was written as early as February and March, the surprising strength of this year's deals coming just one month before the adult upfront marketplace could begin may give credence to the proclamations of some networks sales honchos that the adult marketplace also may be stronger than media buyers have been suggesting.

Typically, there is little correlation between the adult and children's network TV ad markets. In years when the kids market was strong, adult business has languished and vice versa. But network executives have been citing similar factors for a strong adult marketplace: increased demand from and expanding number of ad categories competing for a diminishing supply of upfront gross rating points.

In the kids marketplace the pressure has increased because of the flow of kids rating points to sources that have little or no advertising, such as Toon Disney, as well as increased pressure from food marketers, which may emerge as the largest kids advertising category in 2004-05.

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