Big Ten Net Kicks Off National Ad Push

Channel seeks broader college sports audience beyond alums
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With the Big Ten conference expanding beyond its Midwestern roots, the Big Ten Network is looking to tackle a national audience for college sports. Now in more than 60 million homes, including additional penetration in New York (where Rutgers joined the league) and Washington, D.C., (where Maryland signed on) Big Ten Network is launching a new branding campaign aimed at all sports fans, not just alumni.

The campaign began as the conference’s football season concluded. Spots were set to run during Fox’s coverage of the Dec. 6 Big Ten football championship between Ohio State and Wisconsin, a game with appeal to football fans around the U.S. Fox Networks Group and the conference are partners in BTN, which launched in 2007.

“We thought a lot about who we are. We’re a college sports network. This campaign reflects that,” says Erin Harvego, VP for marketing at Big Ten Network. “This is an evolution in our identity, and our programming is really reflected in this campaign.”

Sports has been a bright spot in the TV landscape, and college sports has been a big part of that, particularly this season with college football using a four-team playoff to determine the national champion for the first time. BTN derives the bulk of its revenue from carriage fees, but it has a solid base of sports-oriented advertisers including State Farm, Buffalo Wild Wings, T-Mobile, Wendy’s and Chrysler.

With great tradition and famous institutions, the Big Ten (which now has 14 teams) has an important place in the college sports conversation in basketball and hockey, whose seasons are just under way, as well as football.

“We’ve put a lot of great Big Ten imagery into this campaign through these beautiful, inspirational Big Ten action shots,” Harvego says. “On the on-air spots we also have graphics that incorporate the school colors. And even the music is actual sounds we taped at Big Ten games to create a soundtrack. So there’s a lot of detail that’s put into these spots.”

The campaign launches with four commercials created by ad agency Fallon of Minneapolis. The spots feature sports action, fans clapping, bands playing. One says: “What time do you want to watch college sports? Perfect. We’ll be on then.” Another says BTN features “Pretty much anything college that ends in ‘ball.’ Also hockey.” They end with the tagline “BTN. We are B1G.”

In addition to TV spots, the campaign includes online banner ads. There are also print ads, campus media, billboards and premiums such as T-shirts in Big Ten school colors using the slogan College Sports in a way that recalls the “College” T-shirt John Belushi wore in the movie Animal House.

MAGNA SEES LOWER TV AD SPENDING IN 2015

Television advertising in the U.S. is expected to drop in 2015 while digital posts gains, according to the latest forecast from media agency Magna Global.

Magna sees TV dropping by 1.4% in a nonelection and Olympics year. The agency says that in 2014, both broadcast and cable faced declining ratings and reduced pricing power, which led to lower volume and lower price gains during the 2014-15 upfront.

Overall, Magna sees U.S. advertising revenues growing by 2.7% to $169.5 billion, which the agency says is a similar growth rate to last year, excluding the effects of the Olympics and elections. The big gainer is digital media, which will grow by 15.5% and reach a 31% market share.

Ad growth was slower than expected in 2014 at 4%, Magna says. The Olympics generated lower ratings and ad revenues than expected, and a stronger World Cup couldn’t make up for the shortfall. At the same time, U.S. economic growth slowed in the first quarter, hurting ad spending.

The agency say the most fundamental factor in the 2014 slowdown is the shift to digital media. “Marketers are now more comfortable with the level of brand safety and accountability provided in the digital media space than they were just one or two years ago, and they are also keen to seize the opportunities created by data-based programmatic buying techniques. The shift to digital is having a deflationary impact on the entire market as digital formats, whenever comparable to traditional format, look cheaper and therefore erode the pricing power of traditional media categories,” Magna said in its report.

Globally, Magna expects ad revenues to grow by 4.8% in 2015 to $536 billion, little changed from the forecast it released in June, which called for a 4.9% gain. But both figures are lower than the 5.5% growth registered in 2014.

Here’s what Magna sees in three key regions of the world:

Western Europe

As predicted, Western Europe finally returned to growth this year (+3.0%) and Magna is expecting a similar growth in 2015 (+2.8%).

Once again the U.K. advertising market increased strongly this year (+7.7%), driven by television (+5.4%) and digital media (+16.8%) in the wake of a buoyant economic environment (real GDP +3.2%). Television benefitted from incremental spend generated around the FIFA World Cup (partly broadcast on commercial network ITV) and the scarcity created by an unexpected drop in audience levels in the first quarter generated double-digit CPM inflation in the first half of the year.

At the same time, the Eurozone periphery markets, which had suffered the most from economic recession and advertising recession over the last five or six years, have finally experienced the long-awaited recovery (Greece +7.7%, Spain +5.6%, Portugal +12%, Ireland +3.6%). Television pricing, recovering from the rock-bottom lows reached in 2013, was one of the key catalysts of that strong rebound, as soon as the economic environment merely stabilized. Magna believes all those markets will experience high-single-digit growth again in 2015 even though the economic recovery remains modest. The sub-region grew by 6% this year and media revenues are expected to increase by 6.6% next year.

Finally a third group of markets is displaying little or no growth in the context of a continued fragile economy: Italy (-1.8% this year, +1.1% next year), France (-1.1% in both years) and Germany (+1.8% this year, +2.0% next year). With a much weaker economy than anticipated (+1.4% in real GDP), Germany managed to grow advertising slightly. Paradoxically, Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup did not help because it was broadcasted on State-owned stations that are largely ad-free, and diverted audiences from commercial channels. By contrast, the World Cup was a clear driver in France, where leading commercial broadcaster TF1 was showing most matches, but even that was not enough to boost television’s pricing power beyond spring as the protracted economic stagnation (+0.4% in real GDP) and historically low business confidence took their toll on marketing demand.

Nordic markets displayed moderate growth this year (+1.5%) and should accelerate next year (+2.6%). The Winter Olympics of 2014 only had a small impact on the region despite the popularity of winter sports. The reason was the fact that the Games were generally not broadcast on commercial, ad-funded stations. The exception was Norway, where the availability of Olympics broadcasts on a commercial channel for the first time contributed to a record +8.5% growth for the relatively small Norwegian TV market.

Central and Eastern Europe

Central & Eastern European advertising revenues are expected to increase by 2.2% this year, a significant deceleration from last year’s 7.2% growth rate, and lower than Magna’s spring forecast of 6.3% growth. The region has experienced increasing headwinds: decreasing energy prices impacting the economies of several prominent CEE countries, as well as spillover from the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, including budget pullbacks as a result of general increased geopolitical uncertainty even in countries not immediately impacted by the conflict. Energy prices continue to fall and political tensions haven’t subsided. Many of these headwinds will linger, and growth next year is expected to be +3.0%, slower than previous expectations. In addition, the recovery towards the long-term trend of approximately +7% will be slower than previously forecast.

While Ukraine is seeing the largest percentage declines in spend, the largest contributor to the decreased growth in the region is Russia, due to its much larger market size. Not only is there the expectation of much slower Russian real GDP growth (IMF forecasts down over 1% since the spring), but Russia is also at the epicenter of many of the regional headwinds. Compounding these impacts are ad market specific headwinds, including the upcoming ban on Pay-TV advertising as well as OOH inventory reductions.

Growth in the region if one excludes Russia and Ukraine (although they represent 53% of the total spend in Central & Eastern Europe), is expected to be +5.2% this year, much closer to our previous forecast of +6.3% excluding Ukraine and Russia. Tensions are high, but spillover thus far has been manageable for the remainder of the region and hasn’t impacted growth quite as severely: Poland is expected to grow by +4.2% this year vs. our spring forecast of +6.4%, and Turkey is expected to grow by +7.3% this year, slightly down from our spring forecast of +8.8%.

The highest growth in Central & Eastern Europe will be in Estonia, where the advertising economy will grow by +8.4% this year. The lowest growth will be in Ukraine, where total spend in local currency terms will shrink by nearly 20%.

Within formats, Magna expects digital to continue to be the strongest growth driver in the CEE region, with growth of 19.0% expected this year. It’s almost the only ad format still growing, as TV and Radio (both +0.8% expected in 2014) are barely remaining positive. Newspapers (-9.7%) and magazines (-11.8%) continue to see sharp declines, and even OOH (-3.7%) is struggling. Historically, one of the stronger regions driving global growth, CEE is now below the global average and falling behind other undeveloped ad markets such as APAC and Latam.

Asia-Pacific

APAC advertising revenues are expected to increase by 6.9% this year, slightly lower than last year’s 7.1% growth and marginally lower than our spring forecast of +7.6%. The chief driver of this slowdown is the softening economic prospects in the region.

Chinese growth forecasts continue to move lower and GDP growth is pacing at the lowest rates in five years. While Chinese ad spend growth (11.6% this year, 8.6% next year) remains significantly ahead of global levels, the weakness in housing sales, property development, and manufacturing activity continue to add headwinds to the economy.

In Japan, the shock created by the sales tax increase this year has hit economic activity but this is more or less offset by a new inflationary economic environment driving up media costs; Magna thus expects advertising spend to increase by 3.0% this year and by 2.7% next year.

The Indian advertising market showed strong growth this year (+13.2%) following two lackluster years (2012: +4.6%, 2013: +8.0%). The general elections that took place in the first part of the year generated massive incremental spend primarily benefiting television. The outcome of the election, bringing a new BJP-led Government to power, improved business and consumer confidence, which prompted Magna to increase its 2015 ad growth forecast to +13.3%. The new government is also committed to investing billions in order to connect millions of rural Indians to broadband Internet, in a plan advertised through a recent meeting between new Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The strongest growth in the APAC region in 2014 came from Indonesia (+21.5%). It has been another strong year for the Indonesian market off a low base (just $29 per capita is spent on advertising in Indonesia). The poorest performance in the region came from Thailand with a 2.3% decline in advertising spend, after being hit by a tumultuous year politically and economically.

Digital continues to be the largest growth driver in APAC, and increased by 22.7% this year to represent over one-quarter of total advertising spend for the first time. Growth continues to moderate, but digital continues to take share from every other format. TV is still the leading format in APAC, but digital advertising is rapidly developing and will pass television to become the leading format by 2019.

Within digital, the fastest growing formats are social (58.6% growth), followed by video (37.6% growth) and search (25.5% growth). Social spend has advanced rapidly and now represents 7% of all digital spend in APAC. Social and video are a focus of brands in APAC, and will grow to match what is spent on banner display by 2019. Mobile spending in the region represents over 20% of total digital spend this year, and this will rapidly grow to over 40% by 2019. Mobile spend on social formats continues to lead the way, and other formats will follow.

Television remains the dominant format for advertising spend in APAC, and spend will grow by 3.5% this year and represent slightly over 40% of all advertising dollars. Broadcast television continues to dominate the TV landscape, although multichannel television is gaining share due to slightly higher growth rates, and by 2019 will represent nearly one-quarter of TV dollars. Print continues to lose market share, and newspapers and magazines together will represent less than one in five advertising dollars this year. This is down from one-third of all spending as recently as 2008.

APAC will continue to be one of the stronger regional drivers of global advertising spend, although its lead on the global growth rate continues to narrow. Its total share of global ad spend will only increase slightly between this year and 2019, from 29% to just over 30% of total spend.

With the Big Ten conference expanding beyond its Midwestern roots, the Big Ten Network is looking to tackle a national audience for college sports. Now in more than 60 million homes, including additional penetration in New York (where Rutgers joined the league) and Washington, D.C., (where Maryland signed on) Big Ten Network is launching a new branding campaign aimed at all sports fans, not just alumni.

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