As audience buying becomes a growing trend in TV advertising, smaller cable channels look to serve a new purpose for marketers: finding additional consumers that meet very specific criteria, well beyond traditional targets like age and gender. A troupe of independent channels is working together to compete for audience-based TV budgets by trying to create some scale and streamline the buying process.
It's no secret that so-called long-tail cable channels are a harder sell than their much larger peers. That's only been amplified as digital video identifies targetable audiences who are perhaps not heavy TV users, a trend that's not going away, and as skinny bundles threaten niche networks' very existence. Advertisers have found little further value in those dedicated to fly fishing or classic movies. As ratings continue to contract, eroding the available commercial supply in the marketplace and thus driving up prices, using these channels to help find more specific audiences, like households that are heavy cereal eaters, may create a new purpose for these networks.
This year, a group of independent cable channels is working to create a programmatic marketplace where agencies and clients would be able to buy audiences across their respective channels. The Independent Cable Network Consortium started two years ago in response to the desire from advertisers to do more programmatic buying on linear TV.
Over a dozen such networks are in discussions regarding the consortium, including Ovation, Reelz Channel, Up TV, Aspire, WGN, Fuse, Weather, TV One and Pop. Any such platform won't be ready in time for this year's upfront selling season. The networks are currently in the process of establishing rules and guidelines with each other, with the hope of rolling out an offering by the end of the year.
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