Not every TV network will talk up targeting and attribution in the upfronts
While the majority of TV networks will spend the next few months pitching advertisers on their targeting capabilities, new measurement tools and ability to prove commercials drive business results, there's something to be said about networks that continue promoting what TV was once known for—reach and safety.
In this way, Hallmark Channel won't spend its conversations with agencies and their clients talking up data sets or striking guarantees that are based on new metrics. Instead, it will focus on the continued strength of its linear ratings and the stability of the company at a time when several traditional media behemoths are in a state of flux.
"We don't want to turn a blind eye to the trends of the industry," says Ed Georger, exec VP, advertising sales and digital media, at Crown Media, parent of Hallmark Channel. "Yes, there is a growth of marketers looking for ways to measure more granularly and optimize schedules. That being said, we still see TV as a reach vehicle and still think there is opportunity to reach viewers in an environment that's safe and compelling."
Rivals are expected to be much more vocal about their continued efforts to better target specific audiences beyond Nielsen age and gender, and also push new tools that prove commercials drive specific business results, like website visits or test-driving a car. It's a tactic to help position networks as competitive against digital behemoth like Facebook and Google, which continue to eat into the $70 billion TV ad business.
But it doesn't necessarily make sense for Hallmark to lean heavily into audience targeting since its networks, which also include Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and its new channel, Hallmark Drama, all cater to similar audiences.
"The challenge with any stand-alone network is they don't have the assets to optimize across," says David Campanelli, exec VP, co-chief investment officer, Horizon Media. "Data only matters if you can take action against the data. To do that in TV you really need a set of assets to reach varied audiences and use data to help identify placements across those assets. Hallmark does what it does quite well, but a varied audience/asset bank is not what they're about."
It's also easier to focus on traditional metrics when you are among the few channels actually growing ratings. Out of the top 20 cable networks, Hallmark Channel was one of just two in January that showed growth in commercial ratings in the three days after a program airs, a standard known as C3. Hallmark Channel saw a 3 percent increase in the 18-49 demographic. In comparison, C3 ratings for cable networks in January were down 14 percent compared to the year prior. A&E saw an 11 percent drop and Discovery declined 13 percent.
Georger says part of the problem is there are a number of cable networks that have lost their brand identity. "We often see cable networks rely on one or two or three shows that define who they are," and when those age, they have nothing to replace them, he says.
Hallmark has remained true to its brand identity, with programs that are family-friendly and wholesome.
And of course there is its holiday programming, which once again made Hallmark Channel the most-watched cable network among women 18-49 and women 25-54 in the fourth quarter.
For advertisers, Hallmark Channel also represents a good value proposition, Campanelli says. The network tends to be cheaper to buy than many of its cable brethren. And while the network skews older, it can also deliver younger audiences as well, especially during the fourth quarter, he says.
Hallmark will celebrate with agencies and clients tonight at Rockefeller Center's Rainbow Room, where advertisers will mingle with network talent. But one of its top stars, Lori Loughlin, won't be in attendance, after the company cut ties following her alleged involvement in a college admissions scam.
Best known as Aunt Becky in "Full House" and the Netflix reboot "Fuller House," Loughlin has starred in several of Hallmark's top Christmas movies, as well as the series "When Calls the Heart" and "Garage Sale Mysteries." The sixth-season premiere of "When Calls the Heart" in February was watched by 2.5 million viewers, a record high for the series.
Contributing: Anthony Crupi