Niche programs add variety to placements

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On cable TV, the networks traditionally offering the most attractive audiences for b-to-b marketers are CNN, ESPN and other news and sports programming. But over the past few years, b-to-b advertisers have begun to leverage the lifestyle demographics delivered by the Discovery Network, A&E, SciFi Channel and other niche cable networks.

For instance, Compaq Computer Corp., Houston, plans to run b-to-b spots on several networks that have been traditionally second tier when it comes to b-to-b advertising, said Tyler Schaeffer, senior VP-director of brand media planning at Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York, Compaq’s agency. "Niche cable is a nice complement to the overall TV mix," he said.

Many cable channels and programs do very well against especially desirable audiences, said Jane Deery, exec VP-managing director at Carat Freeman, Boston. For instance, nearly 58% of CXOs reported watching the high-brow programming of A&E, numbers which compare favorably with CNN.

FedEx Corp., Memphis, advertises on Animal Planet, Comedy Central and other networks, because, "Cable allows for more efficient and precise delivery of the core FedEx target audience, and we have strategically increased the amount of cable included as part of the overall mix," said Steve Pacheco, FedEx advertising manager.

Second-tier cable networks not only reach b-to-b decision-makers, but they also do it efficiently. Depending on the time slot, spots on Bravo can be had for as little as $400 and Discover for as little as $1,500, according to industry sources. But spots placed on key shows in prime time can run around $30,000.

Niche cable "does break you out of the competitive clutter that happens in trade books sometimes," said Caroline Riby, VP-communications director at Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland, Rochester, N.Y. "It puts you on a different plane."

Fewer b-to-b advertisers, however, are making their mark on TV during these down times. While some budgets have required a temporary pulling out of second-tier cable programming, larger players are still working it into the mix. For instance, Microsoft Corp. increased its spending on A&E in the first quarter, said Ron Schneier, A&E’s senior VP-ad sales.

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