TV guide

With the buying frenzy behind them and programming in place, sales execs believe their networks look more attractive than ever to marketers and audiences.

With the buying frenzy behind them and programming in place, sales execs believe their networks look more attractive than ever to marketers and audiences.

Last year was certainly a source of pride with breakout hits such as Lost and Desperate Housewives and the consistently strong Survivor. And the buzz surrounding this year’s programming is even stronger, with one media buyer enthusing that the quality of writing and actors surpasses the previous crop. However, most buyers still expect networks – sensitive about runaway viewers – to be modest with their rates, coming to the table with increases that hover around the standard 3% to 5% mark. ‘No one is going to pay more than that,’ says Theresa Treutler, SVP media director, Doner Canada.

But don’t think the networks aren’t playing hardball. CBC has earmarked Sunday and Monday as nights for consistent ‘high-impact’ programming. CHUM’s strategy is to redefine itself by jumping into the national programming play box by targeting 25-54 and, for example, out-muscling network competitors recently for Chris Rock’s highly anticipated Everybody Hates Chris. With little need to change, CTV is sitting pretty at number one; CanWest, on the other hand, went on a shopping spree, purchasing the most shows of any network in an attempt to not become an even more distant second. ‘CTV can command premium pricing,’ predicts Fred Forster president and CEO of PHD Canada, ‘[but] it’s going to be a tough fall for Global.’

Marketers should have much to look forward to, however, with networks promising more innovative promotional vehicles. At the CBC, for example, Richard Stursberg, EVP of English Television, says plans are in the works to expand partnerships for promotions, much like the successful pairing of KIA and The Tournament, as well as the marriage between Lise Watier Cosmetics and Fashion File. ‘We’re making our promotions less cookie-cutter and much more tailored to the individual project.’

Global is even beginning to address the fact that ROI is more important than ever, according to Kathy Gardner, SVP of integrated media research and corporate promotion at CanWest Global. ‘That’s why our sales, research and programming teams are all working very closely with our advertisers to better understand the impact of their investment with us upon their consumers. And we’ll soon be announcing proprietary research … to provide our advertisers with awareness tracking and product placement effectiveness when they’re looking at integrated campaigns across media.’

In category spending, meanwhile, buyers expect telecommunications to shell out the most of any sector with Bell, Rogers and the like competing not only against each other but Internet phone service provider Vonage’s entry into the market. Automotive spending is expected to decline but experts say that if the economy remains stable, spending across most categories should be comparable to previous years.

‘TV costs have escalated but the bottom line is we need to see a large number of big hits,’ says Doner. ‘These translate into TV events which then become huge marketing opportunities.’ On the following pages is an upclose look at the strategies of Canada’s Big Four.