CTAM Summit 05: Lineups by Genre Gaining Support

Jul 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Court TV kicked off an affiliate marketing campaign earlier this month urging affiliates to switch to genre-based lineups.

The move is based on a premise that goes against long-standing conventional wisdom on channel lineups. Traditionally, networks have held to the assumption that the lower a channel’s number, the more likely viewers are to find the channel and the better the ratings. But Court TV has conducted field research in Dallas with Comcast over the past year indicating that it does much better in a genre-based lineup, being grouped together with networks such as TNT, USA, A&E, TBS and Lifetime, said Tom Wolfe, VP of affiliate relations for Court TV.

“Our ratings are better when we are next to like-minded networks,” he said.

He added that other networks do better too. In the Dallas study, 28 percent to 37 percent of viewers said they were more likely to watch the most popular networks if they were easier to find, Mr. Wolfe said.

“We are advocates of the theory that every network does better when they are aligned with other networks that are like-minded,” Mr. Wolfe said. Over the past year, five cable operators reset their lineups in 16 markets to be genre-based, representing 4.1 million Court TV homes. That includes Miami, where since that market reset the network’s ratings have grown 23 percent year to date in prime time over the same period in 2004. The network’s ratings year to date nationally are tracking to be about 6 percent better in prime time than the same period a year ago.

That market is on the high end, and Mr. Wolfe said he expects the norm with a reset to be a 10 percent increase in prime-time ratings in a market.

Satellite providers DirecTV and EchoStar have used genre-based lineups from the get-go. In satellite homes, Court TV’s prime-time ratings are 10 percent to 30 percent higher than its national average, Mr. Wolfe said.

Comcast is not specifically pushing for genre-based lineups nationally, said Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer, who declined to comment on the Dallas study. She did say the company’s top priority is having a lineup that is as consistent as possible within a designated market area so its messaging can point viewers to a specific channel number for a network across the market.

“It’s important to have consistency, whether it’s genres or whatever the number is,” she said.

In the next year, another 5 million Court TV cable homes are slated to reset to genre-based lineups. To encourage even more cable operators to make the change, Court TV launched its affiliate relations campaign with a mailer and promotion to 600 affiliates, offering a Viking barbecue grill to the grand prize winner of the promotion and $100 in selections from Omaha Steaks to 10 runners-up. In the first week the promotion generated a 5 percent response rate to the contest.

The mailer includes the “Top Ten Seriously Entertaining Reasons for a Genre-Based Lineup,” followed by simple multiple-choice questions based on the list for affiliates to answer and submit to the network by July 29.

The Dallas research also indicated that four of 10 customers perceived they got something new from their cable company with the reset, even though they had those networks all along, Mr. Wolfe said.

Such a lineup works well because it’s more intuitive, like a supermarket. In supermarkets, pasta and sauce are grouped next to each other, Mr. Wolfe said, adding, “If they were in different aisles, it would be difficult.”