TV Land Shifts Focus to Its Demo

Feb 20, 2006  •  Post A Comment

TV Land wants to change the way it’s perceived by the advertising community, even if that means creating a whole new demographic group.

Larry Jones, president of TV Land and Nick at Nite, said the network is changing its focus from being a network about classic television to one dedicated to serving the baby boom generation.

TV Land is trying to follow the model set by its sister MTV Networks outlets. Nickelodeon owns the kids market and MTV is a youth market touchstone. “Super-serving the baby boomers is the way to go,” Mr. Jones said. “No one’s really speaking to this audience.”

Nickelodeon and MTV have been hot with the ad crowd, while TV Land, despite strong ratings, is not because the bulk of its viewers have been around as long as “The Andy Griffith Show.”

To back its transformation, TV Land is diving into the research pool. It recently partnered with Ken Dychtwald, the best-selling author and expert on the baby boom generation. Together they’re looking at viewers-and consumers-in the 40- to 59-year-old age group, which they’re dubbing “The New Power Demographic.”

TV Land last week drew an overcapacity crowd of 360 television and marketing executives to a presentation in Chicago featuring Mr. Dychtwald, the first of several the network plans to hold before this spring’s upfront. Mr. Dychtwald’s message is that marketing to youth won’t cut it anymore because the Power Demographic is growing and has a wad of spending clout. “If you don’t speak to them the right way, they’re not going to buy your product at the same rate,” he said.

Not coincidentally, TV Land is already No. 8 among all cable networks in delivering 40- to 59-year-old viewers and is No. 2 behind Sci Fi Channel in concentration, said Tanya Giles, VP of research and planning for TV Land and Nick at Nite. Unfortunately for TV Land, while marketers of products ranging from running shoes to erectile dysfunction drugs are already targeting boomers, ad buyers are locked into buying viewers based on the 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 age breaks, where TV Land ranks lower.

Even though Mr. Dychtwald finds the policy of pandering to those demographics irrelevant and outdated, it will take time to change the way the ad business works.

“I could see one day 35 to 64 becoming a little more popular, but 18 to 49 has been there and will continue to be there,” said Andy Donchin, director of broadcast for Carat USA.

And buyers know they’re getting a busload of older viewers even when making buys guaranteeing delivery of younger demos. “We know when you do 18 to 49, you’re probably overdelivering on 49-plus. Those aren’t wasted impressions. They do have discretionary income and are buying your products,” Mr. Donchin said.

Karen Bressner, senior VP of advertising sales for Nick at Nite and TV Land, said that while the network was still making sales based on the 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 demos, some clients were already at least looking for reports on other demographics, such as 35 to 54 and 34 to 49.

“We’re not just trying to sell them spots and dots,” Ms. Bressner said. “Marketers want to know this audience better and they want information, and we want to be their source.”

The network and Mr. Dychtwald’s consulting firm Age Wave are working on a major study of boomer response to media, entertainment and advertising due to be released in September.

Ms. Bressner added that while older viewers may watch shows aimed at other demographics, advertising to them on these shows could be less effective because they may not be as attentive as they would be to programming geared especially for them. “If you’re not talking to them, you might not be getting through,” she said.

Mr. Jones said the new focus on baby boomers could lead to different programming on the network. “Classic TV is still the core,” he said, “but this will give us an opportunity to experiment in other areas.”

The network’s annual “TV Land Awards Show” already branches into the movies, music and current TV. The network is working to acquire theatrical films to add to its schedule. And it is developing a five-part series on boomers and their issues.

Of course, this is not the first time a television network has attempted to get Madison Avenue to shift away rom catering to younger consumers.

For years, while ABC and NBC touted their 18 to 49 ratings, CBS pitched the spending power of the older viewers the network traditionally attracted.

But according to Mr. Jones, CBS was premature. Now the time is right because people born in the peak year of 1957 are turning 49 this year and will soon leave the 18 to 49 demo.

To be sure, Madison Avenue recognizes that shifting demographic patterns will affect the media. Last year Brian Wieser, VP and director of media analysis for media buyer Magna Global, noted the graying of the population and among those that would benefit were media that reach older viewers, which include television and newspapers.

But Mr. Wieser told TelevisionWeek he hasn’t noticed big changes in the media-buying community’s approach to an aging population. “I think that advertisers will ultimately view this as being a valuable audience to reach. From a long-term perspective, the opportunity is there, but I don’t know if we’ve seen any radical change in the last six months,” he said.

During his presentation in Chicago, Mr. Dychtwald unveiled statistics showing that consumers in the 40 to 59 age group were the biggest spenders in categories ranging from financial services and automobiles to movies and DVDs to computer software and cellphone services.

And businesses that market to youth are aiming at a shrinking target: According to the 2000 census figures, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds is down 3 percent and 34- to 44-year-olds are down 13 percent, while the number of 45- to 54-year-olds is up 17 percent and 55- to 64-year-olds are up 46 percent. “That’s where the growth is going to be,” said Mr. Dychtwald, pointing to the Power Demo.

He said that the entertainment and advertising industries are among the most prejudiced against the aging baby boomers and have clung to the myth of marketing to kids.

“Young people may be cool and exciting, but they don’t have the money,” he said. At the same time, he noted, the idea that boomer brand preferences were set at an earlier age is also bunk. “They changed their major, they’re changing their spouses, they’re changing their religion, and you don’t think they’re going to change toothpastes?” he asked.