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TV Upfront

Upfronts 2017: Cable Nets Remind Advertisers TV Is About More Than Data

A&E, Scripps Promote Storytelling, Environments

By Published on .

Chip and Joanna Gaines
Chip and Joanna Gaines Credit: Scripps Networks
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For all the talk about how data's role in the TV upfronts will continue to be more pronounced, two cable networks reminded media buyers and advertisers that TV is more than just buying audiences.

"Environment matters," said Jon Steinlauf, president-national ad sales, Scripps Networks, at a press breakfast ahead of the company's upfront presentation on Wednesday evening. "Where the ad lives is just as important as who it reaches, maybe more."

Mr. Steinlauf went on to say that advertisers who limit themselves just to audience buying run the risk of placing ads in front of people at a time when they aren't engaging or responding.

"We believe on protecting the ad model. That's why we are no longer on Netflix," he said.

Scripps executives boasted the live nature of its programming and showed off some of its upcoming programming like the return of "Iron Chef" on Food Network and announced a new series from "Fixer Upper" couple Chip and Joanna Gaines. HGTV will air a half-hour companion series, "Fixer Upper: Behind the Design."

And during A&E Networks' upfront presentation on Tuesday night, Peter Olsen, who leads national ad sales for the company, promised there wouldn't be any talk about data or native advertising. The cabler, whose networks include Lifetime and History, will certainly discuss such things during individual meetings with clients and their agencies, but its presentation was focused on storytelling.

Instead of the usual suits running down a list of programming and opportunities for advertisers, the executives that took to the stage told stories about their relationship with TV. A&E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc told a story about watching TV with her grandmother after school, while Marcela Tabares, who leads A&E's audience insights team, spoke about immigrating to the Bronx in the late 1970s from Colombia. "TV helped us navigate our social identity in this new world," she said.

A&E did cut to some sizzle reels featuring new programming like "Kevin Hart's Guide to Black History" on History, and discussed the re-launch of its "Biography" franchise.

Audience targeting continues to be a key theme heading into this year's upfront haggle. Last week, Turner, Viacom and Fox Networks Group announced they would be working together to standardize audience targeting across networks.

And earlier in the month NBC Universal said it would look to sell $1 billion of inventory against non-Nielsen guarantees.

While both A&E Networks and Scripps Networks have been utilizing data as part of their deals with advertisers, neither have made as big of a priority as some of their counterparts. But it sounds like both would at least consider joining the consortium.

"We need to know more," said Mel Berning, president-chief revenue officer, A&E Networks, while adding that it is worth investigating.

Scripps Networks Chief Revenue Officer Steve Gigliotti also acknowledged the need for standardization in audience targeting.