Women's Cable Networks Prep for Upfront Battles
Gearing up to earn lion's share of dollars against broadcast—and each other
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/1/2013 2:06:10 PM
Female-skewing networks such as A+E Networks' Lifetime, the NBCUniversal networks Bravo, Oxygen, Style and E!, and Scripps Networks Interactive's Food Network, Cooking Channel and HGTV; and AMC Networks' WE tv are all readying plans to reach out to advertisers with their own unique pitches aimed at capturing the attention of the growing number of categories and brands focusing on women.
"Women today are über-consumers," says Dan Lovinger, executive VP of cable ad sales for NBCU. "They are focused on by advertisers more than ever before, including categories like electronics, home improvement and travel that were traditionally considered mostly male-targeted."
Lovinger says each of the NBCU women's networks has its unique audience-or advertisers can buy packages across all of the networks. "The Bravo audience is a little more affluent, Oxygen is a bit younger female skewing, E! is watched by women for pop culture, while Style targets lifestyle for all women."
Lovinger adds that even NBCU kids' network Sprout can be a vehicle for advertisers to reach moms, and USA Network has some programming to reach a more mass female audience.
"All together, it creates a scalable opportunity but specific and unique audiences can be targeted separately," Lovinger says. "Each network stands for something on its own.
"We have a client solutions division headed by Allison Tarrant who will meet with marketers to see exactly who they want to reach and tailor programs with them across all our female-skewing networks," Lovinger adds.
Bravo, of course, is known for its highly-successful Real Housewives franchise, along with its Top Chef series, and Lovinger says both of these also offer marketers digital opportunities as well. Oxygen will be introducing model-related reality competition series The Face prior to the upfront, so it will still be fresh in marketers' minds as the network gets down to business. E! has the Kardashian franchise and the next season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians will feature Kim's pregnancy, which Lovinger believes will result in a bump in ratings.
Mel Berning, president of ad sales for A+E Networks, says Lifetime is once again growing its female audience, which is good timing, given the approaching upfront. During the current broadcast season, cable network Lifetime has increased its primetime viewership 8% among women 25-54 and 12% among women 18-49. And Amy Baker, senior VP, ad sales for Lifetime, says among all the women's networks with an audience composition of more than 70% women, Lifetime is tops in primetime viewership in both female 18-49 and 25-54 demos.
"Most of our competitors have almost all reality programming, we have a mix of reality, movies and scripted drama," Baker says, taking a little poke at her network's rivals. "We believe that is a major differentiation."
Berning says another attribute of Lifetime is that "most of our growth is coming at the younger end of the spectrum," pointing out that women 18-34 demo ratings are up "about 14%-15%" this season. He cites the Project Runway audience as being both younger and upscale. But, adds Baker, "creatively, our programming hits every female age group."
Baker also says that while the network's movies skew toward the slightly older 25-54 range, drama series The Client List, which returns in March, has a sizable 18-49 audience. The network is also excited about new drama Devious Maids, produced by Marc Cherry and Eva Longoria, which premieres in late March and which they are hoping will draw lots of younger females.
"We feel we reach all women, young, old, multicultural," Baker says, citing the made-for-Lifetime movie Betty & Coretta, about the lives of Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King, which airs on the network on Feb. 2.
Drama series Army Wives returns in March, and it will do so with several younger wives added to the mix. "It was getting a little older in the demo, so we want to try to bring back more younger women viewers," Baker says.
Baker plans to aggressively reach out to categories in this upfront that traditionally have not targeted women as much, such as automotive and financial.
Jon Steinlauf, executive VP of ad sales for Scripps Networks Interactive, says the company's six cable networks, which all reach a significant number of women, cumulatively took in more than $1 billion in the upfront last year. Food Network and Cooking Channel each have an audience makeup of about 63% women, while HGTV's audience is about 65% female.
Scripps will again take its unique approach to the upfront, traveling to eight cities to do traditional, six-network presentations, with sales and programming overviews and appearances by on-air talent at a central location in each city.
Steinlauf says while Food and Cooking clearly have sizable female audiences, HGTV offers the most upscale female audience total-day numbers, as well as primetime, on cable. Citing Nielsen NPower data, Steinlauf says HGTV is the top-rated network among women 25-54 with incomes over $100,000 and over $125,000 for both total day and primetime. The network is first among women 18-49 with incomes over $100,000 for total day and second behind NBCU's Bravo in primetime.
Food Network is right there as well, ranking third in total day among women 18-49 and 25-54 with incomes over $100,000 and second in primetime among women 18-49 with incomes over $125,000. NBCU's Bravo is second among women 18-49 and 25-54 in primetime with incomes over $100,000 and among women 25-54 in primetime with incomes over $125,000.
"We have created a 24/7 programming environment for brands that are all home, all food," Steinlauf says, "and advertisers are able to air in programming that has consistent ratings across all time periods, no high spikes or low lows. Having a similar audience level for each of our shows is appealing to advertisers."
Steinlauf adds that the Scripps networks work with advertisers to create a lot of short-form custom content for brands that tie into shows either as part of the show or as advertiser-sponsored vignettes that run during commercial breaks but relate to the theme of the show.
"We are open to integrating brands into our shows because our viewers are watching our shows to enhance their lifestyle so they tend to be much more engaged in the brands featured and in our commercials," Steinlauf says.
Ad packages can also include magazine advertising in HGTV and Food Network magazines, which Scripps publishes in partnership with Hearst, as well as digital extensions.
WE tv executives were not available to discuss their network, but the Syndicated Network Television Association says marketers should not overlook the power of syndicated television in reaching women in daytime. Syndication has the two highest-rated daytime shows among women 25-54: Judge Judy with a 3.4 and Family Feud with a 2.4. Also in the Top 10 are The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Maury (1.6 each), and Dr. Phil and Live with Kelly and Michael (1.5 each).
Syndication also dominates daytime with 65% of women 25-54 impressions, compared to 35% for the networks.
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