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Fledgling cable entries Home & Garden Television, the Golf Channel and the History Channel are carving a niche with smaller audiences and bringing new advertisers to TV.

"They are fulfilling the cable promise of providing special interest programming," said Bob Igiel, exec VP-director of broadcast at Young & Rubicam, New York. "The fact of `choice' continues, and viewing will continue to fragment. The real test of strength will be to see if this is the kind of programming that can afford to be at lower distribution levels."

Available in 6.5 million homes, Home & Garden TV has the highest distribution of the three. The Golf Channel claims nearly 2 million homes; the History Channel, a spinoff of the Arts & Entertainment Network that has about 57 million homes, has about 1 million. Executives of the History Channel, which was launched Jan. 1, wouldn't release ad rates.

E.W. Scripps Co.'s Home & Garden TV views itself as a "video shelter magazine," said Steve Newman, VP-advertising and sales.

"Historically, several of our advertisers have spent no money on video advertising," he said.

Such advertisers include Velux America, maker of skylight windows; Valspar Corp., a coatings company; and home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos.

Ad rates vary from $100 to $150 for a "rotation run" of a 30-second spot across all times to $155 to $250 within a specific program.

The Golf Channel appeals to manufacturers of golf-related items that have previously spent little on TV, like Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, a South Carolina consortium of resorts, hotels and golf courses, and Izod Club Golf & Tennis Co. apparel.

The channel sells program sponsorships of at least one year for $75,000 to $750,000.

Joe Gibbs, president-CEO, said the Golf Channel has already gotten 40% of ad revenue hoped for in 1995, and he expects to land luxury car and telecommunications advertisers. Anheuser-Busch, backing Michelob and O'Doul's, already is on board.

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