Turner Broadcasting's Adult Swim network, looking to become
a larger player for ad dollars in the upcoming upfront, is ready to tout its
growing 18-49 demo ratings in hopes of pulling some cash away from both
broadcast and its cable competitors.
In evolutionary terms, the 11-year-old network, which airs
its programming from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on a timeshare with Cartoon Network, has,
in a sense, grown up a bit. It initially drew audiences in the 18-24 demo, and
along the way to one that broadened to an 18-34 audience. It now has enough
viewers in the 18-49 age group to make a case for a corresponding growth in ad
Joe Hogan, executive VP of ad sales and marketing for
Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and truTV, says many viewers who began watching Adult Swim
10 years ago have aged up into that 35- to 45-year-old age bracket and are
still watching the network.
"We're looking to get the advertisers to catch up with those
viewers," Hogan says. "We want to be part of the 18-49 demo conversation."
Donna Speciale, president of ad sales for Turner networks
TNT, TBS, Adult Swim, truTV and Cartoon Network, says, "When I was on the media agency buying
side, going back in the earlier days of cable, I used to look at TNT and TBS as
possible replacement networks to move dollars to from broadcast. Now they are
major players on the cable side and Adult Swim is at the same point they were,
ready to emerge. We want the ad community to look at Adult Swim as a
replacement for some of the broadcast dollars they want to move."
Speciale says Adult Swim has more original programming than
ever, is priced more reasonably than the broadcast networks in both primetime
and late-night and is an easy place to target demos.
"We think we can pull some dollars away from the lower-rated
primetime networks on broadcast and also on cable in this upfront," she says. "The
story about the Adult Swim 18-49 audience hasn't really been told in detail to
the ad community. The network has been evolving and now we have substantial
ratings data to go out and sell it."
Hogan says viewership of Adult Swim programming is also a
lot more female-skewing than media buyers may realize. He said the network's
viewer skew is about 60% male to 40% female, so advertisers who want to target
harder-to-reach males can do so on the network, but there is also a solid core
audience of females for marketers who want an alternative to the female-skewing
broadcast primetime or late-night choices.
The ratings numbers for Adult Swim are fairly impressive.
In February, Adult Swim programming accounted for 18 of the
top 50 telecasts on basic cable each week among adults 18-34 and among men
18-34. For the week ending March 3, the total was 17 of the top 50 telecasts
among adults 18-34 but jumped to 22 of the top 50 telecasts among men 18-34.
For that same week ending March 3, Adult Swim's total day
delivery ranked first on basic cable among adults 18-24, 18-34, adults 18-49
and specifically among men in those three demos, with percentages up double
digits in almost every one of those categories over the same period last year.
In primetime, Adult Swim ranked third among basic cable
networks for the week ending March 3 among adults 18-34 and its primetime delivery
of adults 18-24, 18-34 and 18-49 all increased by double digits, with the later
demo up 20% over the same period last year.
Its midnight airing of the series Robot Chicken
averages about 1.8 million viewers and a 0.8 18-49 rating, and all new episodes
of series that premiered during the week in its "Toonami" block produced
double- and triple-digit percentages of increases vs. the same period last
Its newest original series, Newsreaders, which airs
Thursdays at midnight, has grown its time period by 22% in adults 18-24 and 35%
among adults 18-49 compared to the time period last year.
That ratings growth gives the Turner sales team a good story
to tell media buyers as they attempt to lure dollars away from the competition.
But while media buyers seemingly know that Adult Swim is the
place to reach young men, Speciale and Hogan want to hammer home that 35-49
year olds of both genders are increasingly watching the network.
"That's where our focus has been over the past six months
when meeting with clients, and it will be our focus in the upfront also,"
Speciale says. "I oversee ad sales for five networks and I love them all
equally, but the programming on Adult Swim keeps producing steady ratings
growth and when marketers buy it they are getting the rating points they
ordered, not make-goods."
Hogan says media buyers who take Adult Swim in primetime or
late-night can lower the average age of the overall audience they are reaching
for their marketers' buys and can also reach an audience that is very tech savvy.
"The Adult Swim audience are heavy multiscreen viewers and
users of multi-screen devices," Hogan says. "We offer Adult Swim game apps and
our advertisers can get involved with that. We also have many ad opportunities
on our website adultswim.com."
The strongest ad categories for Adult Swim right now are
movie studios, QSRs, gaming and male-oriented retail. Hogan says Lexus had been
a sponsor and now other luxury automakers are beginning to work with the Adult
Swim sales teams to find branded opportunities to reach viewers.
One sales tactic Speciale plans to use is to position Adult
Swim as a place to reach non-sports-watching males and possibly tie that into a
male sports buy with TNT and TBS. "Our research shows that most male Adult Swim
viewers are not heavy TV sports watchers. So Adult Swim could be a great
complement to TNT and TBS," she says.
But Speciale adds that while Turner plans to try to sell
packages including all of its networks in the upfront, "we'll be fluid" as far
as Adult Swim upfront sales go.
Hogan says a final misconception by some about
Adult Swim programming that he hopes to dispel in the upfront is that it is too
adult for teens to watch. "All Adult Swim programming is rated TV14, which
means pretty much any age can watch it," he says.