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Advertisers notice young news viewers

Dec 31, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Audiences for the all-news cable networks have gotten bigger and younger since Sept. 11, and movie studios, apparel retailers and other youth-minded advertisers have begun to notice.
But are the young demos and the advertisers who court them in cable news to stay?
At least one high-profile agency executive says no. “I’m not so convinced that the whole profile of news viewers is changing,” said Mel Berning, president of U.S. broadcast for MediaVest. “You’ve got a huge-profile event that has drawn people to the set that are specific to this event.”
The message from the U.S. government is, however, that the post-Sept. 11 crisis will be unlike other riveting news events, that it is a war of multiple fronts and many engagements, and that it will be a factor in American life for a long time to come. If the government is right, the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan is only Step 1. Past crises, by contrast, were over relatively quickly and resulted in an upward spike in news viewing for a very limited duration.
Sept. 11 and its aftermath have accelerated the maturing of the desirable younger demos, said Jim Nail, a senior analyst at Forrester Research who specializes in advertising issues. Cable news viewing will re-establish itself in the future at a higher permanent level than where it was in the past, he said.
“What we are more likely to see [in the future] is that the kinds of financial services ads that are the mainstays of CNN [will] change the product mix and the messaging to [appeal to] a more novice investor, one who has different needs and objectives,” Mr. Nail said.
Designer apparel labels will want to reach those newly serious-minded young demos, too, Mr. Nail said. “Does a Ralph Lauren want to get those kids for their first serious work clothes? Absolutely. To establish that buying pattern early in their career, that’s a hugely valuable audience.”
The most recently available numbers tell just how valuable that new audience is.
Cable News Network’s 18- to 49-year-old audience is up approximately 40 percent for the just-concluding fourth quarter from the same quarter in 2000 and from the first three quarters of 2001, said Larry Goodman, president, CNN sales and marketing.
On a total-day basis, CNN is delivering 180,000 18- to 34-year-olds now, compared with just 22,000 before Sept. 11, Mr. Goodman said. “We’re overdelivering in some cases by five, six, eightfold,” he said.
Even in a soft marketplace and in an unsettled economy, advertisers have begun to take notice of the new younger cable-news viewers. Increases in movie and retail advertising are expected in the make-or-break fourth quarter. “For CNN, the percentage of business that we’ve written for the 18- to 49-year-old demographic is substantially higher in the fourth quarter than it has been in the rest of the year,” Mr. Goodman said.
The pattern is similar at MSNBC and CNBC, said Keith Turner, NBC president of advertising sales. “So far [the young demos] have stayed. That’s a trend that continues,” he said. “Pricing is higher [for the fourth quarter]. It’s 10 [percent] to 15 percent over the upfront.” Movie studios are the new big spenders on cable news networks. Studios that now advertise on CNN include Sony, Warner Bros., New Line (an AOL Time Warner unit), MGM, Fox, Miramax and Universal Pictures, according to a Turner Broadcasting spokesman.
But Mr. Berning, whose clients include a movie studio, remains doubtful about the long-term appeal of news to younger viewers. “I don’t think that [news is] the first place that we are going to look to put brands that are looking for a young profile,” he said. “For the increased younger viewing levels to be regarded as more than just the same kind of spike that occurred with past news events, “That spike has to be maintained for a period of more than three or four months,” Mr. Berning said.
A Fox News Channel spokesman declined to make senior advertising executives available to comment for this story.