‘Better’ Gets Bigger

Meredith’s syndicated daytime show Better is poised to become a player in the national advertising arena.

In less than a month, the lifestyle show based on the iconic Meredith magazine brand will debut on KCAL, CBS Television’s owned-and-operated independent station in Los Angeles.
The growing roster of top market stations clearing the show could potentially change Better’s advertising equation from its current 90 percent reliance on local advertising.

Launched in 2007 on two of Meredith’s Fox affiliates in Portland, Ore., and Las Vegas, Better entered its fourth season Sept. 13 with the debut of 30 new affiliates. With Los Angeles, the show will clear seven of the top 10 markets and four of the top five, reaching 60 percent of U.S. TV households.

“We’re very close to that tipping point where we would be able to make a compelling argument that a national brand should take a look at this,” said Paul Karpowicz, president of Meredith’s local media group. “Signing on in Los Angeles is a big deal for us.”

Designed to address a scarce commodity in local TV, Better gives stations the ability to insert local content and offer advertisers product integration opportunities via two four-minute windows, along with 8.5 minutes of traditional breaks—more inventory than is offered by the typical syndicated fare. A slam dunk for the local furniture store or spa salon, Better’s model could now also be a big draw for national retailers looking to target local audiences with creative promotions.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities [for product integration in local TV programming],” said Karen Agresti, svp of local broadcast for Hill Holliday, referring to local news. “This is a great opportunity for advertisers to be associated with national content that is familiar and put a local twist to it. We want to capitalize on what makes markets unique.”

Meredith’s timing in getting Better’s distribution north of 70 percent of U.S. TV households is fortuitous. Local stations’ options for daytime syndicated is a limited selection of tough-love court shows or struggling talk programs. Moreover, soaps are also disappearing, and Oprah is preparing to defect to cable.

“We think there is an appetite for the advertorial approach in this marketplace. It gives advertisers a unique option,” said Steve Mauldin, president and general manager of CBS Television’s Los Angeles duopoly, who signed on for the show when he was the general manager of KTXA-TV, CBS’ independent station. “With the cost of programming, taking our destiny into our own hands can be a real advantage.”