03 April 2014

Cynopsis Media

"You have to eat someone else's pizza," says Bruce Lefkowitz, EVP, Fox Cable Entertainment Networks. "Cable budgets aren't growing the same way they did in the 1990s. Last year, there were eight slices in the pie and we got one slice. This year, the company says we need one and a half slices, but the owner is still only making one pie. So you have a lot of people eating each others' pizza."

And while cable networks may be flexible in finding ways to appeal to buyers, the overarching challenge is finding a way to prove consistent, aggregate viewership across multiple platforms to ad buyers. "It's about, 'How do we all get our arms round the fragmented viewing of linear product'" says Horizon Media's Dave Campanelli, SVP, director of national TV. "It's important for networks to protect the ecosystems of their products, and not let them get lost across different outlets."

Naturally, this competition has led to a lot of out-of-the-box thinking. Networks now routinely creatively ally with advertisers for individualized ads (think Geico's gecko on a Viking ship, tying in with History's Vikings). Other ideas that have enticed buyers recently include event-ized, live programming, adjunct web content and roadblocking series across a cable channel family's networks (think Cosmos on ten 21st Century Fox nets, including Fox, FX and National Geographic). 

"Advertisers are looking for something that gives them an association with the show," says Arlene Manos, AMC Networks' president, national ad sales, pointing to how The Walking Dead theme was featured in a Microsoft ad, or a tie-in between Portlandia and Subaru that resulted in in-show product placement and Subaru-sponsored webisodes.

For Scripps Networks, the ads in its 2000+ hours of live programming each year are so targeted that viewers don't see them as intrusions. "(Our viewers) like the advertising," says Jon Steinlauf, EVP ad sales and marketing at Scripps Networks Interactive. "There's an interest in the advertiser as resource, as opposed to it being clutter and interruption." At Scripps, he says, ads are "vertical print models," the way they are in magazines. "Some people buy magazines for the advertising," he says. "We have that same quality."

Other networks focus on branding first and foremost: Hallmark Channel has successfully colonized the holiday space and earns the network record ratings and top demo slots for "Countdown to Christmas" programming, including 12 original Christmas season movies in 2013. "Events like 'Holiday' are a marketer's dream," says Bill Abbott, president and CEO, Crown Media Family Networks. "What better brand to associate yourself with than Hallmark"

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