TV Upfront

Turner Combines CNN, TNT and Other Network Upfronts to Highlight Data

Network Group Will Host One Event on May 13

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Donna Speciale at the 2013 TBS and TNT upfront.
Donna Speciale at the 2013 TBS and TNT upfront.

Turner Broadcasting is consolidating its various TV networks' upfront events into one big show to highlight its ability to reach audiences through data-driven ad tools across its kids, news, sports and entertainment properties.

The event, taking place on May 13 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, will feature flagship channels TNT and TBS, as well as Cartoon Network , Adult Swim, Boomerang, TruTV, CNN, HLN and Turner Sports. The idea is that Turner has a better way for advertisers to find their target audiences than merely choosing networks or shows with certain broad demographics.

"In today's fragmented environment, advertisers and media companies continue to search for enhanced targeting and insights," Turner President David Levy said in a statement. "Turner continues to invest in data and analytics that allows us to better understand our audiences, collaborate with partners and continually innovate across all platforms."

The consolidation of upfront events, where TV networks pitch upcoming programming to ad buyers, comes a year after Turner integrated its TV and digital ad sales for all of its brands, led by Donna Speciale, president of sales.

During last year's upfront, the cable programmer introduced several data-driven ad products that allowed media buyers and their clients to better target viewers beyond the traditional age and sex demographics measured by Nielsen.

It struck deals with four agencies and eight advertisers as part of last year's upfront deals, including Optimedia and T-Mobile, as well as Taco Bell, for its initial tests of the Targeting Now ad product.

This year it will expand on these offerings by allowing clients to reach virtually any behavioral target across networks and digital properties. Ms. Speciale said the platform will have access to between 20% and 30% of Turner's ad inventory.

It's also moving forward with its ROI Now platform, which aims to gauge how much sales and online visits increased as a result of advertisers' campaigns spanning Turner's traditional and digital platforms. For the five campaigns Turner has run thus far, it has shown a 3% to 17% sales lift, according to a company spokeswoman.

"Data and content are changing the very nature of marketing, and providing greater opportunity," Ms. Speciale said in a statement. "Across Turner, we are creating the future of video advertising by combining the strengths of digital and television to help our clients excel."

TV's answer to digital competition
Data will once again be a hot topic during the TV upfronts, as traditional networks look for ways to woo advertisers who are increasingly shifted marketing dollars out of TV and into digital. Following a largely lackluster TV upfront last summer that lasted into the so-called scatter market, where commercials are bought closer to their air date, TV networks are keen to find ways to better compete with digital.

NBC Universal is already trying to use data to convince advertisers that TV not only has impressive reach but can narrowly target specific kinds of consumers.

Turner kicked off this year's data-driven pitch during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month, hosting senior-level client presentations to gauge interest and plant seeds for larger deals around data and analytics in this summer's upfront.

As network groups increasingly go to market as holistic units combining TV and digital, they are also combining their upfront presentations into one, glitzy affair. NBC Universal brought all of its cable channels together last year for one presentation rather than holding individual parties for USA Network, Bravo, E! and Syfy, as it had done in the past.

Aside from Turner's presentation, the company will continue to host its infamous Adult Swim party during what's traditionally been known as the broadcast upfront week.

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