MAGNA Likes Multicultural Multicasting


African-American audiences have Black Entertainment Television, TV One and other national cable networks, but mega-media buyer MAGNA Global USA said there is room for local TV formats targeted to the African-American community, plus even more cable networks.

That's according to Director of Industry Analysis Brian Wieser, whose company controls a multi-billion dollar budget of media spending for the Interpublic Group of Companies, which includes ad agencies McCann-Erickson and Initiative.

According to Wieser's just-released report on multicultural media, digital multicasting technology would help make that prospect not only feasible, but relatively attractive.

The report also sees more potential for competition to BET, saying, "The economics of cable should allow for several networks…. The upstart TV One, backed by partial ownership from Comcast, should successfully demonstrate the demand for this format."

Wieser said such targeted media remain "undeveloped relative to their long-term potential," citing a list of positives including large concentrated populations and "manageable" distribution issues. "With advertiser support and experimentation," says the report--and Magna Global suggests it would be wise for advertisers to start experimenting--"these media may become new vehicles for marketers to effective reach audiences of the future.

There is a caveat in the form of an uncertain regulatory environment, however. "[T]he prospect of legislation requiring MSOs to offer networks on an a la carte basis has significant implications for TV One and other minority targeted networks."

Another uncertainly is multicast must-carry. Would targeted local channels still make sense if they didn't have mandatory cable carriage? Maybe,  says Wieser. "To the extent that broadcasters have the frequencies to play with and digital-capable TV sets are more widely deployed, then in some markets it still starts to make sense, though less so without full multicast carriage."

But he points out that gaining multicast carriage would be a double-edged sword for programmers, boosting local programming efforts but squeezing out the national guy with the umpteenth iteration of a minority- targetted channel.