March 23rd, 2011

Kids’ Business Looks for Grown-Up Boost

Multichannel News

Kids’ TV isn’t just for children any more.

A lot of moms are watching with their offspring, and marketers are itching to reach those parents, and that’s one reason why this year’s kids’ market is expected to be strong.

The kids’ TV business contracted with the rest of the industry when the recession hit. But some on the sales side think the market could add several hundred millions in new spending, topping the $1 billion mark and moving into record territory, in 2011-2012.

“We think ’11 and ’12 is going to be Nickelodeon and Nicktoons’ best year ever,” Jim Perry, executive vice president of 360 Brand Sales at Nickelodeon/ MTVN Kids and Family Group, said.

Perry pointed to last year’s healthy upfront and a scatter market that has been robust for five quarters, with prices currently 25% to 30% higher than they were in the upfront for inventory in some in-demand weeks.

While the market is dominated by the big players — Viacom’s Nickelodeon, The Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Channel and Time Warner Inc.’s Cartoon Network — there are a number of newer, smaller players that are hoping to grab a bigger share of the pie. The Hub, a joint venture of Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, launched last year; and Disney plans to launch Disney Junior for preschoolers next year.

Buyers acknowledged the market is strong. “We’ve definitely seen resurgence and certain categories are leading that,” Darcy Bowe, associate activation director at media agency Starcom, said. “Movies have been solid. Toys have been big; they’ve really made a comeback” especially among the midsize toy companies.

In addition to the traditional kids’ advertisers, networks are getting bigger bucks from categories like the automakers, insurance companies and the travel industry.

“For us on Nickelodeon, the real growth has been the adult business, the likes of automotive and packaged goods and insurance companies actually running their commercials and partnering with us on Nickelodeon for co-viewing and for families,” Nickelodeon’s Perry said.

“Around here, we’ve definitely had a lot more advertisers asking about co-view lately,” Starcom’s Bowe concurred. “The networks, too, have been really trying to come in and promote their co-view story, and just talk about how parents are watching with their kids because as the kids market levels off , there’s only so many categories that play into it.”

Bowe noted that most of the co-viewing is going on during the weekend, when families tend to spend time together. But she added that there are some questions about whether parents are paying attention to what’s on the screen: “Are they actively engaged or are they in the room doing other things?”

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