Editorial: Brand Recognition4/19/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern
In broadcast network television, there is an aged argument
about whether a network should have a brand, or
whether its shows themselves make up the brand. In
cable television, conventional wisdom says there is little
or no debate.
Even the broadest of cable networks have aligned their stars
under one brand. When you turn on a successful cable outlet
like USA, FX, Bravo or TNT, you basically know what you are
going to get at any given time.
It is with this understanding that two programming acquisitions
stood out so glaringly in the past week: SyFy grabbing
professional wrestling and TBS snagging a new late-night host.
And we highlight the two moves for very different reasons.
The TBS brand is about comedy, and in enlisting Conan
O’Brien, the network has snatched up one of the better comedic
minds in the business. There is no need for explanation about
why this moves fits into the TBS brand and why the network
should be lauded for making this happen, whether or not it turns
out to be a cash cow.
On the other end of the spectrum was SyFy’s move to
acquire the rights to World
Smackdown program, a show
that has jumped from UPN to
The CW to MyNetwork and
now to the NBC Universal
cable network. For a network
that has built great buzz
around wonderful, identityenhancing
the critically adored Battlestar
Galactica and its strong
follow-up Caprica, this is
very simply a head-scratcher
from a branding perspective.
By no means of the imagination does Smackdown fit the SyFy
brand, no matter how clever the spin. The Smackdown card has
been played by its last couple of homes in an attempt to grab the
one thing it delivers every week: eyeballs. But The CW learned
that was a rented audience, especially for its brand.
SyFy has been on a roll of late from a buzz perspective,
shrugging off some initial shots over its renaming to continue
to cement its image in NBCU’s impressive cable stable. That’s
why this move was a bit disappointing.
Smackdown, along with TBS’s O’Brien move, also serves as a
useful reminder as networks—broadcast and cable—unveil their
new programming to advertisers. The bottom line is that brands
do matter, especially in cable. Even in broadcast, networks like
CBS have prospered once they went back to focusing on their
As clutter increases, customers need to know what to expect
every time they come to your store, or you risk body-slamming
your value proposition.