New Name’s a Start To Make a Network Pop

Upcoming rebrand of TVGN uses familiar formula as acquired programs build audience for originals
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A new name is just a small part of building a cable channel. “So many people think a rebrand is a name change. That’s not a rebrand,” says Brad Schwartz, who will be president of Pop when TVGN changes its name early next year.

The name change, announced last week, follows giving the network a new personality and attempts to identify potential viewers. Pop will aim to capture the fun of being a fan of things that “pop.” And it hopes its viewers will be what it calls “modern grownups,” a generation of viewers who are different than baby boomers.

“These modern grown-ups are people that use fandom and entertainment as a way to stay in touch with their youthful side,” says Schwartz, who identifies with this cohort. “People are delaying emotional maturity, they’re getting married later in life, they’re having kids later in life. You’re talking about people that are engaged in culture and want to see movies and want to buy the new Apple 6.”

Schwartz says Pop will have a very large marketing campaign getting ready for the relaunch. “You’ll see us in the market at the end of this year, November, December, setting up for the launch. You’ll see us heavy in the market in January-February launching and sustaining the launch,” he says.

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The network has held back the debut of the original show Rock This Boat: New Kids on the Block so that it can be part of renaming the channel.

“For a smaller network, an emerging network, you really want your content to speak for the brand, so we have three or four shows that we’re super-excited about,” says Schwartz. “The way you promote them needs to have a strong attachment to the brand that we’re building and the name that we’re calling it.”

Schwartz says “you won’t see some sort of image-y campaign for Pop.” Instead, the shows will be promoted, and ads that promote those shows “will feel very much in the spirit of fandom and being a fan.”

TVGN’s ratings have picked up lately, but Derek Baine, analyst at SNL Kagan says, “there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The network’s financial performance has already improved. Kagan estimates that TVGN’s affiliate fees, while still small, have grown to an average of 3 cents per sub per month in 2014 from 2 cents in 2013. Advertising revenues are up 25% to $92 million, turning the network from cash-flow negative in 2013 to $12.6 million in the black in 2014, despite a 10% increase in programming expenses.

While Pop will focus its marketing on original programming, the recent growth in TVGN’s ratings among women 18-49 has been driven by acquired feature films and award show specials, according to Ratings Intelligence, an analytical service that is owned by B&C parent NewBay Media. Ratings Intelligence also says the network’s most-watched series are CBS soap The Young and the Restless and Big Brother: After Dark, an extension of the long-running CBS reality show that does well in the most coveted demo.

TVGN’s original shows, Unusually Thicke and The Sorrentinos, bring younger viewers, but so far attract a smaller audience than the acquired shows, according to Ratings Intelligence.

That’s a familiar strategy for cable networks, which historically have turned to acquired programming to draw an audience, before using that audience as a lead-in for original shows that will make their brands distinctive.

The network says it will continue to add series from its parent companies, CBS and Lionsgate. Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place joined the lineup this year because they have strong fan bases among the modern grown-ups the network is targeting. But the network also plans to have 400 hours of original programming on Pop in 2015.

Schwartz says the network is working with consultant Loyalkasper to create a new onair look for the channel—one that will make it stand out. “I’m a very strong proponent of doing things differently,” he says. I’m the guy at Fuse that put the network’s ‘bug’ in the middle of the screen.”

Pop is also looking for a slogan to go with its new name, which was created in-house. “Slogans are tough,” Schwartz says. “Slogans are something you really do have to test because they can mean so many different things to different people. You want to find your ‘Just Do It.’”

A new name is just a small part of building a cable channel. “So many people think a rebrand is a name change. That’s not a rebrand,” says Brad Schwartz, who will be president of Pop when TVGN changes its name early next year.

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