BKN Inc. Closes Media Unit

BKN Media, the buyer of record for Montgomery Ward, is closing its 30-person Chi-cago office, putting the Midwest retailer’s estimated $75 million media buying business in play.

The advertiser was expected to decide where to put its media buying probably as early as this week, sources said. Whether the account goes into review or is moved to another shop, Ward is unlikely to look outside Chicago, sources added.

The decision to close BKN Media followed the announcement last week by the parent company, kid-programming and production company BKN Inc., that it was devoting its U.S. efforts to growing its 2-year-old animation studio and being a “pure play content” provider. The move also ends the media-agency career of one of the more well-known industry figures, BKN chairman Allen Bohbot.

West Los Angeles-based BKN Studios now has 12 programs in development; its parent library includes The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, The Mask: The Animated Series and other shows.

BKN Inc. launched kids-content provider BKN International in Europe this year and now sells entertainment content in 80 markets.

“When we were just a distributor, being in the media [buying] business made sense,” said Bohbot. “But it didn’t make sense when we became a production entity. The media buying business is a 2-4 percent commission business and doesn’t build any hard assets. In entertainment, the margins are better, and you build assets.”

Bohbot formed Bohbot Communications in 1986 and did business as a media buyer and syndicator. Eventually, the agency grew to about $400 million-plus in billings, much of it in the kid-programming arena. Bohbot Communications eventually be-came BKN Media. Bohbot said the buying business represented less than 5 percent of BKN Inc. revenues.

Last year, BKN Media (then Quantum Media) lost the $50 million Toys “R” Us media business to Leo Burnett and Starcom, leaving Ward as the only buying account of consequence at the shop.