It’s been a slow-growth story for Graham Bensinger’s little weekly show that could, In Depth With Graham Bensinger, but in season 6, the show continues to gain steam.
“A really big push on our end has been to add international and non-traditional distribution,” says Bensinger, who is literally involved in every aspect of the show’s business, from interviewing sports superstars to selling ads and securing distribution.
Bensinger and his team just completed two new international deals for the weekly half-hour sports show, joining the slates of Fox Sports International to carry the show in select European regions and signing a three-year distribution deal with ESPN Australia. The program also has been added to Southwest Airlines’ in-flight entertainment program in a two-year deal.
The program—which was built based on Bensinger’s experience as a sports journalist, having started his own Internet sports radio program when he was only 14 and then working for ESPN and NBC Sports—focuses on offering deep interviews with the best of the best in sports. Most recently, that’s included former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, surfer Kelly Slater and Formula One racing world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The show title includes the words “in depth” for a reason. Bensinger and his production team spent three days in four cities—Dallas, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico—with Nicklaus, watching the golf great run his business. It was an interview that was “six years in the making,” Bensinger says.
All of those stars—and particularly Hamilton, with whom Bensinger is spending two days in London—have international appeal, so the program makes sense for overseas markets.
“The next territories we are pursuing are the U.K., Canada and all of the other regions that would be appropriate for English-language sports television,” says Bensinger.
In only its third year in syndication, having started its life on regional sports cable channels, the show has expanded and upgraded its domestic syndication roster. It airs on Big Four affiliates in most top markets, usually appearing on Sunday nights in late fringe, after the late newscast or the station’s local weekly sports show. In some markets where the show isn’t on a Big Four affiliate, it is on a strong station with lots of local news, such as Tribune’s KTLA Los Angeles.
From last season to this one, In Depth With Graham Bensinger has grown from total U.S. broadcast and cable household coverage of 75% in 2014-15 to 83% in 2015-16. Broadcast coverage is 75% this season, up from 62% in 2014-15. That includes a two-year deal with the NBC owned-and-operated stations and a much stronger clearance in New York, where Fox moved In Depth from its MyNet affiliate to WNYW on Sunday nights at 11 p.m.
“Our station lineup is mostly staying the same,” says Bensinger. “If we don’t have the ideal time period on a station partner, we work with them to get time-period upgrades. In cases where we’ve been unable to do that, we switch stations.”
Those upgrades are showing up in the ratings, which are up 24% this season, says Bensinger. To date, the show is averaging nearly one million broadcast viewers per week, up from last season’s 693,000, and the 478,000 who watched during show’s first year in syndication in 2013-14.
The show also is continuing to push out its content digitally, courtesy of a deal with Yahoo Sports. It also recently launched a YouTube channel, which already is averaging more than 3 million views per month—and growing.
In Depth also has added to its advertising roster, with AT&T and Dr. Pepper joining its list of sponsors, which includes Bank of America, Geico, Snickers and Hugo Boss. Those advertisers all buy 30-second spots with the show, but they also work with Bensinger and his team on highly customized branded integrations.
Internally, the show also made a big change at the start of this season, bringing its production in-house.
“I employ the producers and editors, and we’ve purchased all of the workstations and server racks,” says Bensinger. “We all work together in St. Louis where we’re based. It’s a huge step in the right direction for us. It creates a lot of long-term growth opportunities and potential efficiencies. It’s something I’ve been working toward for a long time.”