Kids’ Business Looks for Grown-Up Boost

3/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

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

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

“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?”

After a couple of tough years, kids’ networks are putting
more effort into selling marketers multiplatform packages
that include the Web as well as TV, which helps marketers
now that the price of TV is again on the rise.

“Television has historically been so strong, but people
have relied on it pretty heavily. While we feel there’s a significant role there as well, we feel there are a number of opportunities,
digital being one, place based being another,”
Shane Ankeney, executive
vice president and managing
director at media agency
Initiative U.S., said. “We
think there are opportunities
to connect with kids in
a lot of different ways.”

“Cartoon Network is No. 2
in audience share in ad supported kids television and we
are the preeminent destination for boys in kids television,”
Cartoon executive vice president for ad sales and marketing
John O’Hara said. “If you’re out to reach kids you need
to utilize our network and our website.”

O’Hara estimated that about 85% of Cartoon’s advertisers
use both the linear TV network and CartoonNetwork.
. “We do that in a way that’s very integrated,” he said.

Non-commercial Disney Channel has been expanding
its sponsorship model, creating multiplatform packages
that reach kids and their parents, according to Rita
Ferro, executive vice president of Disney Media Sales &

Most recently, Ferro said, Chrysler bought a sponsorship
of the original movie Lemonade Mouth. In addition
to Disney Channel, the sponsorship includes Disney Online
and the magazine Disney Family Fun. The Milk Processor
Education Program tied into the series Good Luck
and a “Magic of Healthy Living Initiative” for a package that includes TV, online print and radio.

”There really is an interesting new way of looking at how
you can take that sponsorship model and really make it
work for them,” Ferro said.

At last week’s upfront presentation Ferro began pitching
Disney Junior, a new channel aimed at younger kids that will
also use the sponsorship model, rather than the traditional
commercial model employed by boys-oriented Disney XD.

Last year’s new entry, The Hub, will be coming to market
with some experience under its belt.

“We went into the upfront not having something tangible,
so we’re really, really excited about this year’s upfront,”
The Hub senior vice president of ad sales Brooke
Goldstein said. She said the network has had success with
co-viewing, particularly with its Family Game Night program,
and will be adding new shows this year from Film
Roman, including R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour and Dan
, from Film Roman to complement Hasbro franchises
like Transformers and My Little Pony.

Five-year-old PBS Kids Sprout, aimed at kids 2 to 5, will
be coming to market with Nielsen ratings for the first time.

“Our numbers are very strong and I think it opens up a lot of
conversations for us on the advertising side in particular
you’ve got measurement,” Sandy Wax, president and general
manager of Sprout, said. “We’re like a kid in the candy store
now we’ve got these Nielsen numbers. You have accountability,
but you also have tools so that you can really understand your
audience.” Naturally, Sprout’s research shows a high concentration
of mothers watching TV with their children.

But Nickelodeon’s Perry doesn’t think smaller players
jumping into the kids business will slow down the market
leader. “We don’t think any new players will have any impact
whatsoever,” he said.

Jon Lafayette is business editor of Broadcasting & Cable.