SoapNet’s Ad Sales Up 40%

Jul 25, 2005  •  Post A Comment

While most cable sales executives found this year’s upfront ad market difficult, SoapNet says it has cashed in, with spending increases from existing clients as well as new business.

The Disney-owned network, built around prime-time rebroadcasts of ABC’s daytime dramas, registered a 40 percent year-to-year increase in upfront revenues, said Heidi Lobel, senior VP of SoapNet sales.

The gains came from spending increases in the 20 percent range by current clients and the addition of about 16 new advertisers. “Our CPM increase was definitely not typical of what I read in the press about the cable marketplace,” Ms. Lobel said. “We were at the high end of anything I heard this year.”

Most cable networks said CPMs were flat to 5 percent higher than last year.

SoapNet was able to add advertisers in two new categories: Epson in the computer field and Diageo in the liquor business.

“We’re very happy about breaking into the computer category because it fits with our younger, more affluent viewers who are working women,” said Deborah Blackwell, general manager of SoapNet.

Ms. Blackwell added that the liquor ads will run after 10 p.m., when about 95 percent of SoapNet’s viewers are over 21. “It’s a very heavily over-21 crowd watching SoapNet after 10 p.m., so it’s an appropriate environment for a woman-targeted alcohol product,” she said.

Other new SoapNet sponsors include Pizza Hut, Old Navy, PetsMart, Miller Brewing and Cotton Inc.

The network’s upfront performance followed a strong scatter market, where Ms. Lobel said CPMs were up 30 percent. Those scatter sales prompted the network to try to sell a higher level of inventory during the upfront. “We doubled the number of our scatter advertisers,” she said. “We were looking to convert some of those advertisers to upfront, long-term advertisers. That would yield a higher sellout, and that’s what we did.”

Because daytime dramas are such a familiar and comfortable genre for advertisers, SoapNet attracted a good number of large national advertisers even when it was new and its distribution was small.

Ms. Lobel said that now that the network has grown in distribution and ratings, it still represents a value to advertisers. “We are still very efficient vis-%E0;-vis our competition,” she said. “In addition to that, we offer up some unique added-value opportunities for our clients. That’s become more and more important in today’s world, to extend a brand’s message beyond the spot itself.”

One new value added opportunity has foot-care marketer Dr. Scholl’s sponsoring the “shoe cam” during SoapNet’s coverage of the red carpet before the Daytime Emmy Awards show. The network has featured the “shoe cam” before, but, “This is the first time we have the perfect sponsor for the shoe cam,” Ms. Blackwell said. Dr. Scholl’s will also be involved in promotional efforts in the weeks leading up to the awards show.

SoapNet is also able to integrate sponsors into its “Soap Talk” show, running fashion shows for retailers and cooking segments for food marketers. Advertisers can also sponsor stunts, such as marathon blocks, and can be integrated into the network’s reality series, “I Want to Be a Soap Star.”

This year “I Wanna Be a Soap Star” will get a boost from sister Disney network ABC. A special program reviewing the first eight episodes of “Soap Star” will air Aug. 18 in the time slot usually occupied by “The View.” That night, the finale of “Soap Star” will run, and the next day the winner of the competition will begin appearing on “All My Children.”

ABC will air another SoapNet program, “SoapNet Reveals ABC’s Soap Secrets,” in “The Views’s” time slot Aug. 26. The show, which lets viewers know about upcoming story lines, is airing for the third straight year. This season, after the show airs on ABC, KFC will be the presenting sponsor when it appears on SoapNet.

Ms. Blackwell said “Soap Star” this season has been drawing ratings among women comparable to those attracted by the network’s main programming-the same-day reruns of daytime dramas.

This calendar year, SoapNet ranks as the No. 8 cable network among women 18 to 49, according to Nielsen Media Research. It ranks first in both viewer loyalty and minutes viewed.

“It’s the passion and loyalty of our viewers that Heidi is able to sell to our advertisers,” Ms. Blackwell said.