Broadcast Television’s first cousin, Cable Television, expanded television viewing opportunities starting in the 1980s. The interest in cable television started with MTV and a slogan that everyone knew by the end of August 1981, “I want my MTV!” The difference was that in order to get MTV and other cable networks one had to subscribe to Cable which meant that watching TV now came with a monthly fee. This monthly fee included installation of cable wiring in homes and a fancy little box on top the TV. In the 1980s, no one imagined Cable Television would expand and grow to what it is now.
The Rise of Cable Programming
While, MTV is no longer the same as it was when it first launched on August 1, 1981, it was definitely the innovator of cable television programming as it is known today. Not only did it bring the second British invasion of music to America but it brought musicians to life. MTV’s format also included up to date music news, new game shows like Remote Control, and the cartoon all parents hated (Beavis and Butthead). Most importantly MTV was a pioneer in what we know today as reality television shows. Most notable are the two shows, The Real World, and Road Rules, which are still in production to this day.
Today’s television viewing landscape includes thousands of cable networks that appeal to almost anyone. Up to date news, weather, and sports are at every subscriber’s fingertips. Shows about murder, deep sea fishing, and driving trucks on icy roads are huge hits. Reality-style non-scripted shows such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Lip Sync Battle, Pawn Stars, My 600-lb Life, and Long Island Medium have given everyone an escape from their own reality, tug at heartstrings, or are good for a laugh.
- FOX News
- The Weather Channel
- TLC (The Learning Channel)
- HSN – Home shopping network
- Comedy Central
- Investigation Discovery
- Fox Sports 1
- And the list goes on and on and on and on and on…
Characteristics of Cable Television
Lately, most of the news around cable television has to do with cord cutting – meaning many are canceling their cable subscription and moving to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. However, media planners and buyers recognize that cable is still a dominant form of media and like broadcast television is what fills the top of the purchase funnel because of its unique characteristics.
- Reach & Frequency Medium – cable has reach like broadcast but enables the buyer to buy frequency like radio.
- Live and Immediate – one of the reasons media planners and buyers like networks such as Fox News, The Weather Channel, and CNN is because of the live and late-breaking news that can be immediately available as the action is happening.
- Zone-Ability – buying cable in specific zones allows media planners to compliment the marketing strategy by making sure that ads are delivered exactly where the commercials need to be seen. This is a selling point for small businesses wanting to cover a portion of a metro area, or with a small footprint in their area. This also adds to the affordability of the media, making it possible to be on television without the hefty costs of broadcast.
- Interconnect – the zone-ability of cable is often the selling point, but wanting to cover an entire market/geo area of zones can be done as well. The “interconnect” can be purchased to canvas all zones within a provider’s “market”. This map of zones is often different than that of the broadcast DMA coverage in the same market area.
- Provider Variety – today cable providers consist of cable systems such as Cox, Viacom, and Comcast as well as satellite companies, Direct TV and Dish Network that can make up different percentages of the cable saturation in a given market.
- Original Programming – cable programming is much more flexible than broadcast, this enables each cable network to provide original programming and run it several times a day in an effort to not only fill time slots but to generate a following.
- Affordable – yes, the Nielsen and ComScore ratings are often lower than broadcast but the prices are also lower.
How is Cable Television Used for Advertising?
When media buyers create cable buys they often start with some form of research such as Scarborough, Nielsen and/or comScore. This research will help to determine which networks, shows, and timeframes are ideal to purchase to achieve the overall goals of the marketing strategy. NCC Media, a cable advertising rep firm, is also a huge asset to any media planner or media buyer when they are creating a cable advertising strategy or media buy. NCC Media can provide in-depth research to help determine the exact set of networks, dayparts, and programs that are best for any media buy. Their expertise in cable television helps to create ideal media buys to ensure that consumers within the targeted demographic are reached in the right place at the right time. They have the ability to buy from all providers, even small independents, within any market quickly and easily.
Cable is a natural fit in a media buy due to the content of the networks. For example, trying to reach Men 18-49 to purchase a truck? Sports (ESPN, Fox Sports, Golf Channel), late night shows on Comedy Central, Tru TV, SyFy and news networks such as CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC are your best bet. Trying to reach affluent women with a penchant for décor and gardening? Place commercials on HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Lifetime, and Investigation Discovery (everyone loves a good murder mystery). The options are endless.
New Level of Multiscreen Viewing
Cable networks have learned how to take the viewer from the TV screen to their website. As a matter of fact, these networks are pros at it. Full episodes of most of a cable network’s hit programs are available for viewing on the websites. In addition to that, the networks also help to develop an up-close and personal relationship with the casts of the reality shows as well. This strategy not only helps the cable network increase hits to their websites but also grows loyalty to the programs.
BluHorn is an easy to learn media planning and buying solution that can help make cable buying faster and more efficient. Created for media buyers by media buyers, BluHorn Media Buying Software enables the media buyer to organize, analyze and create the best cable media buys. As a 100% web-based media buying solution, there is no software to download and no server space needed. This enables media planners and media buyers to not only work efficiently but also remotely. Easily integrated with Nielsen and comScore, as well as QuickBooks online.