Specialty TV Services: New services more than just extension to standard TV buy

In their quest for new and unconventional sources of advertising revenue, representatives of the recently licensed specialty tv services are positioning their media vehicles as more than just an extension to a standard tv buy.All of the services will be using...

In their quest for new and unconventional sources of advertising revenue, representatives of the recently licensed specialty tv services are positioning their media vehicles as more than just an extension to a standard tv buy.

All of the services will be using a niche marketing argument to target clients who do not currently advertise on tv.

And although their sales and marketing teams are just gearing up for their first round of meetings with advertising agencies and their clients, it is clear that sponsorships and promotions will generally be offered as ‘standard equipment.’

George Gonzo, executive vice-president of Calgary-based CFCN Communications, and the man in charge of marketing The Country Network, a country music video service owned by cfcn parent company Maclean Hunter and Calgary-based Rawlco Communications, puts it this way:

‘The one thing [media buyers] are not looking for is a whole bunch of cheap time. That is not going to get the job done. That is not effective marketing.’

Rather than rush to market with a rate card, Gonzo says he will spend his time over the next few weeks and months talking to major players on the agency and client side to find out how The Country Network can complement the client’s marketing strategies.

‘Our focus is on targetting the client’s customer, rather than some demo 18-49, or adults 25-54,’ Gonzo says.

‘We need to go way beyond that, because, otherwise, it’s just more numbers,’ he says. ‘And, we don’t see any future in that.’

Gonzo says he will be offering clients opportunities, through sponsorships, promotions and the like, to ‘own’ some portion of what is being presented to the consumer.

‘Because if it is important to the end-user, obviously, that importance will help play a role in the acceptance by the customer of what the client has to sell,’ he says.

Phyllis Yaffe, president and chief executive officer of Showcase Television, a Toronto-based drama service owned by Alliance Communications in partnership with several other independent Canadian production companies and the cbc, says it is clear the specialty services will have to offer agencies and clients a mix of advertising, sponsorship and promotional options.

‘We are of differing opinions as to how those things will balance out, and, obviously, advertising is crucial and we hope to get as much of it as we can,’ Yaffe says.

‘But, the days when people say, `I want to buy [commercial time] and nothing else’ are over,’ she says.

‘You just won’t win on ratings points and cpms, so `What else can you bring to the table?’ That’s going to be the first question, the last question and the middle question [asked by clients and their agencies.]‘

Asked whether Showcase would consider product placement as part of an advertising deal, Yaffe says the nature of the service, which will run previously aired Canadian programs and ready-made foreign shows, precludes that option.

‘But that isn’t to say there isn’t a way to work with clients in terms of wraparounds, and all kinds of creative options,’ Yaffe says.

Jean Mongeau, director of national sales at Societe Radio-Canada and the executive in charge of the sales team that will soon be selling advertising on the French-language all-news service Reseau de l’information (rdi), says it is obvious rdi will lend itself ‘tremendously well’ to sponsorships and other value-added programs.

Mongeau says rdi will be sold as a complementary product to Radio-Canada, partly because sponsorships, promotions, billboards and corporate logos are excluded as a matter of policy from news and current affairs programs running on the main network.

‘There are all sorts of specific properties that are going to be well in tune with advertisers looking for an additional push, other than a straight media buy,’ Mongeau says.

David Kirkwood, director of sales and marketing with established specialty service MuchMusic, and the man responsible for marketing Bravo!, its new performing arts sibling, says he expects the vast majority of Bravo!’s revenue to come from program sponsorship.

‘There are many corporations that support the performing arts and live theatre, and, I am sure many of them would want to extend that participation to Bravo!,’ Kirkwood says.

He says the service will offer advertisers who do not have or cannot find room in their budgets for tv creative a chance to participate through promotional spots that can be produced in-house.

Selling sponsorships and promotional packages, however, does not mean Bravo! will refrain from competing for traditional ad dollars, he says.

‘We’ll certainly take [what we can get] from advertising budgets too,’ Kirkwood says. ‘It’s all marketing dollars, when it comes right down to it.’

Trina McQueen, president of The Discovery Channel, a Toronto-based service that will air programs on nature, the environment, science and technology, says she has already been contacted by a number of ‘major’ advertisers interested in sponsoring specific types of programming, and she welcomes those calls.

But McQueen says, for the most part, Discovery will be targetting clients who do not traditionally advertise on tv.

‘We would look at advertisers who are not now on television as forming 20% to 30% of our revenues,’ says McQueen, adding she has a rate structure and potential viewership she believes will be attractive to magazine advertisers.

Todd Goldsbie, who is overseeing advertising and promotion for YOU: Your Channel, says the lifestyle specialty service, too, will appeal to non-traditional tv advertisers interested in reaching light- to medium-frequency tv viewers.

‘People will come to our channel in ways that may be similar to the ways they come to special interest magazines, so the kind of partnerships that we develop with our advertisers and our viewers will be more personal than [with] traditional broadcasters,’ Goldsbie says.

Jacqueline Cook, vice-president of marketing at Lifestyle Television, a specialty service showing programming of interest to women, says it is not only important to present advertisers with a range of advertising, sponsorship and promotional opportunities, but an understanding of how to communicate with the target audience.

Cook says one of the things Lifestyle’s research uncovered was that women, as a group, use tv differently than men, and, therefore, it makes sense to tailor the advertising to them.

‘When MuchMusic came into being, advertisers learned a new way of presenting their message,’ she says. ‘We now have advertising that looks like video clips.’

‘Advertisers are wondering if Lifestyle presents a similar opportunity, with advertising that is geared towards women, and speaks in a woman’s voice.’

Whatever voice they choose, it is clear that advertisers will have more options than ever before to get those messages across.