Ovation TV Touts Ad Ties with Museums

Arts-Focused Cable Network Passes on Traditional Upfront for One-on-One Meetings with Advertisers, Buyers

This upfront season, arts-focused network Ovation TV is pitching advertisers on unconventional ways to sell to consumers.

Rather than holding an upfront show, the relaunched channel -- in 28 million homes through Dish Network, DirecTV and various cable deals -- is meeting one-on-one with advertisers and buyers to pitch them on innovative partnerships that make up for its lack of reach.

The network is trying to leverage its partnerships with some 50 museums and cultural institutions to offer advertisers a chance to target consumers at various venues -- not something a TV network can usually offer.

For example, last year, Ovation brokered a deal between the Museum of Natural History in New York and Geico around the museum’s Human Origins exhibit -- a natural fit for the car company’s caveman mascot. Geico got on-site collateral at the museum by placing its logo on maps there and Ovation saw a percentage of the deal, in addition to earning spots from Ovation on its linear network.

Ovation’s 100 advertisers include Buick, Acura and Grey Goose Vodka. For its upfront, it’s holding about 100 meetings with buyers and advertisers. Ovation programs each night with a different genre, including performance art, music and film, and it targets viewers 18-49, 25-54 and 35-64.

"We realize we need to be very, very creative," Ovation chief operating officer Ron Garfield said.

Ovation offers several sponsor exclusives, including Bid on This, a series about high-end auctions.

The channel, acquired by investors including Hubbard Media Group in 2006, relaunched in June 2007 with just 5 million homes. It got picked up by Dish when it acquired the International Music Feed channel, raising its distribution to 25 million homes, and it’s hoping for 30 million by year’s end.

"Size doesn’t mean anything to me," said Peggy Green, president of broadcast for Zenith Media USA. "You look at the households they’re reaching and if they’re the ones you want to be targeting, it has value to you."

Added Natalie Conway, senior vice president and director of cable activation at Starcom USA, "We like fledgling networks and we support competition, and they have a new and different space they’re trying to carve out for themselves."