CNN Reboots to Grab Non-News Ad Dollars

Cabler Markets Its Personalities, New Genres to Prove It's About More Than 'Politics and War'

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It looks like CNN is gunning for ad dollars that typically go to networks like Nat Geo and Travel Channel, as the founder of 24-hour cable news broadens beyond its programming base.

New President Jeff Zucker has been trying to remake CNN into a network that's essential every day rather than watched only during big news events.

Jeff Zucker
Jeff Zucker

"CNN's new programming strategy lends itself to go after dollars that are not traditional news," said Sam Armando, senior VP-director of strategic intelligence at Publicis Groupe's SMGx.

At the time of his hire, Mr. Zucker said news is more than just "politics and war." To this end, he is revamping the schedule -- bringing in personalities like George Stroumboulopoulos and Chris Cuomo; emphasizing mornings to take on the likes of "Today"; and moving into new genres with Anthony Bourdain's weekend travel show.

These formats will help CNN broaden its appeal to a wider consumer base and give the network opportunities to bring in new advertising categories and more ad dollars, said Greg D'Alba, president, CNN News Networks and Turner digital ad sales and marketing.

According to SNL Kagan, CNN ranked as the 23rd-largest basic cable network by gross advertising revenue in 2012 with $379.5 million. That puts it behind non-news networks like USA, Food Network, History, Syfy and Bravo. (ESPN was No. 1 with $2.08 billion.)

Under the new formats, CNN's sales team will also be able to build promotions and sponsorship packages around show launches, which have historically been limited. Mr. Bourdain's show has attracted BMW and MillerCoors as launch sponsors; the latter hasn't bought time on the network in about five years.

CNN is also selling its "foundation brands," like Mr. Bourdain, Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan.

According to Magna Global, cable evening news receives 12% of total cable TV ad spending in the U.S. This is the third-largest cable daypart by spend, behind weekday prime time (17%) and late night (13%).

CNN also will be promoting its new research capabilities -- All-Screen, a partnership with Nielsen and Arbitron, and Advanced Media Targeting -- which give agency clients the ability to plan, measure and post their cross-platform campaigns more effectively, according to the company.

CNN isn't hosting an upfront, instead it will be bringing Mr. Zucker into small meetings with select agencies.

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