New-season sales being led by tried-and-true properties

Several top Canadian media strategists tell MiC that - with very few new shows to pick from due to the recent writers' strike - they're advising their clients to invest in proven hits.

With all of the upfronts – such as they were this year – behind us, MiC asked some leading Canadian media strategists how ad sales are going so far. We also asked Canadian TV networks for the kind of information that’s routinely reported in the US. But we were uniformly stonewalled on the grounds that corporate policy is to consider sales data proprietary information and therefore not for public disclosure.

For the record, news media down south are reporting that the American broadcast networks have already sold $9.23 billion in inventory, exceeding last year’s total.

How does this year compare with last year sales-wise?

Valerie McMorran, SVP investment director, Starcom MediaVest Group: ‘The buying pace during June can be frenetic as buyers quickly secure programming on first-rate card and before the ‘sought after’ inventory is depleted. The telling tale of how well fall TV sales will do versus a year ago largely depends on the momentum throughout the summer and early fall. Despite a weakened economy, we do not predict any drastic decline in fall TV sales. A slowdown, if any, will more likely occur in winter/spring 2009.’

Which series, old and new, are the most sought-after?

Kim Osborne Duarte, group director broadcast, PHD Canada: ‘Due to the fact that there is little new programming, the tried and true are selling first.’

McMorran: ‘Returning favourites, including Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Miami, House and Bones, are still in high demand.

‘Of the new shows set to debut, there really isn’t a great deal to get excited about, and any buzz seems to be limited to JJ Abrams’ new series, Fringe, and how well the new versions of Knight Rider and 90210 will fare. Canadian and specialty programming continues to have appeal, particularly for product placement/product integration initiatives.’

Florence Ng, vice president – national broadcast investments, ZenithOptimedia: ‘For Q1, there is a tendency to stay with the proven properties. Criminal Minds, which will be in simulcast this fall, and Dancing With the Stars are the more sought-after returning series. Of the new series, 90210 is popular, especially for the W18-34/W18-49 demo.

‘For Q2, drama continues to dominate the schedules, followed by proven reality shows such as The Amazing Race, Survivor, Dancing With the Stars and America’s Top Model.’

Are you being told that inventory is sold out on any shows so far?

McMorran: ‘No, but fringe programming in every market continues to be in short supply, so soaps like The Young and the Restless and late-night talk shows are quickly becoming depleted.’

Ng: ‘The majority of our buys were conducted within two weeks of the fall launch week. Demands were high on certain ‘efficient’ properties such as Dancing With the Stars and Criminal Minds, but they weren’t sold out at that time. Calgary continues to be the hottest market in the country.’

Are buying frenzies happening to any of the new shows?

Josie Bumbaca, account director, PHD Canada: ‘Not really, although Global tells me the new daytime Doctors series, which is obviously unproven, is already sold out. I also believe the Survivor [franchise] is sold out [which Global declined to confirm or deny]. What else is selling out fast are fringe properties. The specialties have taken a bite out of daytime. Other than fringe properties, we’re not finding anything is really coming back where our whole schedule is just blown out of the water, which is a good thing.’