Cablers Noticing What’s on TV Guide Channel

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Changes to the programming and on-air look of the TV Guide Channel are persuading more cable systems to insert and sell local ads on the network.
During 2003 TV Guide boosted the number of subscribers reached by local advertising from 22 million to 24 million. Among those adding insertable subscribers are Comcast in Philadelphia and Miami, Time Warner Cable in Milwaukee and Adelphia Communications in West Palm Beach, Fla.
“The flexibility of TV Guide Channel, which allows advertisers to tailor their messages on a regional or local level, and the network’s high cume and frequent viewership were key factors in Comcast’s decision to launch local advertising on TV Guide Channel,” Kim Woodworth, VP of advertising sales for Comcast, said in a statement.
TV Guide Channel reaches about 57 million total subscribers, which means it still has a ways to go in terms of getting cable operators to view it as an important local ad vehicle. But Tonia O’Connor, the network’s senior VP of national accounts, said programming changes have been getting results.
Earlier this year the network changed its look, using a high-tech blue to attract younger viewers and increase its male skew. The channel also showed off its entertainment-industry muscle by increasing the number of celebrity interviews it presents.
The network is planning further changes to its programming lineup and will add some longer-form shows, Ms. O’Connor said. When those programs are announced in the first quarter of next year, plans for local ad promotions and events will be unveiled.
TV Guide Channel now programs shows that are 10 to 15 minutes long. They run in the top half of the channel’s two-part screen, with program listings scrolling on the bottom half. The network has experimented with longer shows, including specials tied in to the MTV Video Music Awards and the Emmys.
Those half-hour shows “received very favorable responses,” Ms. O’Connor said. The longer shows may increase the number of viewers tuning in for the programming, in addition to those who simply scan the listings, she said.
Nielsen Media Research figures indicate that in the third quarter the network earned a 57 percent cume, which means that more than half of all cable viewers have been tuning in TV Guide Channel at least once a month. About 52 percent of the channel’s viewers tune in at least daily.
TV Guide’s new management is more cable-operator-friendly than its predecessors, and it has plunged the service into support of high-definition programming and video-on-demand, areas where those operators really appreciate the help.
When operators opt to sell local ad time on TV Guide, the channel nearly pays for itself, Ms. O’Connor said. She said the channel generates about 90 cents per subscriber in local advertising.
Operators pay a license fee of less than 9 cents per subscriber per month for the channel. With systems representing 22 million subscribers selling ads on the service, TV Guide Channel carries nearly $20 million worth of local advertising.
“That doesn’t include the promotional value that should be factored in there or the amount of VOD or pay-per-view buy rates that we drive. I think that’s really the compelling aspect of it,” Ms. O’Connor said.
“I think another reason for the increased interest is that more and more operators are looking for ways to maximize the return on investment for their bandwidth, and TV Guide Channel definitely represents that type of opportunity because of the amount of local inventory and the flexibility we offer with it,” she said.
TV Guide Channel gives local operators 10 minutes to sell per hour-more than twice what other networks offer. That means an operator can devote some of that commercial inventory to promote itself and still generate revenue by selling local avails.
TV Guide Channel has a fairly broad viewership and is geared to general retail advertisers such as car dealerships, local retailers and restaurants on the local level.
Those advertisers can take advantage of the flexibility TV Guide Channel extends to local operators in terms of selling longer ads.
“The fact that we offer not only the ability to do a 30-second or 60-second commercial, but they can actually do a full two-minute spot as well, is a unique proposition in the local advertising category,” Ms. O’Connor said.