Finding Different Ways to Reach a New Generation

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Lifetime, the original cable network for women, is looking to attract new female viewers and provide advertisers fresh ways to reach them.

The channel’s reputation has long been tied to its women-in-peril made-for-cable movies. But with recent programming including The Rap Game and Bring It, Lifetime is being watched by young African-American women.

“It’s not just African-American women, it’s a very distinct young African-American audience,” said Amy Baker, executive VP of ad sales at Lifetime, LMN and FYI. “We think that’s an untapped area on linear.”

Baker said that when those shows appear, the audience composition is between 70% and 80% African-American women.

Toyota is one of the advertisers that noticed. The automaker, which had not been a significant Lifetime advertiser, made a big buy for this season through Toyota’s multicultural agency.

“We didn’t even realize we had as high a comp as we did to be able to tap into these different budgets,” Baker said, adding that now general Toyota agencies are buying in as well.

Lifetime has also begun producing short-form snackable content that runs in commercial breaks on its linear cable channel during primetime. The content is mostly scripted and serialized, and can also be found on Lifetime’s digital and mobile platforms. Some segments have clients integrated into them; ads run adjacent to the shorts.

Instead of tuning out commercial breaks, the short-form content is attracting viewers. Lifetime arranged for Nielsen to measure the short series as programs, and they often have generated higher ratings than the network’s full hour.

“This is another offering providing our advertisers and our viewers with something a little bit different because people are viewing differently. Everyone has attention deficit disorder, so we thought we’d try these small pieces and we’re seeing some very nice numbers attached to them,” Baker said.

Clients are impressed as well. “Everybody I speak to on the agency side, they’re really intrigued with this,” Baker said.

Geico is among the advertisers that have bought the short-form content on Lifetime during a Billboard Women in Music special. The insurance company has a huge budget and it’s open to trying new ways to reach audiences.

“What the agencies are most interested in is the experimentation part of it,” Baker said.

A similar short-form series also ran on FYI, another A+E Networks channel. The content was almost a spinoff of the series Married at First Sight. Zillow, the online real estate information company, sponsored Married at First Sight: The First Years, which showed couples looking for homes.

Lifetime has also been known for championing women’s causes. With its Broad Focus initiative, it’s tackling the shortage of jobs for women in Hollywood. Only about 5% of behind-the-camera positions in filmmaking go to women. At Lifetime, it’s closer to 40%, Baker said.

With Broad Focus, Lifetime is teaming up with the American Film Institute on a program for women. For each woman that graduates, Lifetime is guaranteeing a job working on a Lifetime movie or another project at parent A+E Networks.

Lifetime is also offering Broad Focus graduates to advertisers. A sponsor will bankroll their short film, specify the programming genre and brand objectives, and own the film when it’s done.

The films will premiere in primetime on Lifetime, with a brief introduction from the budding filmmaker. Then it will appear on digital platforms and apps.

Baker said she’s closed a Broad Focus deal with one sponsor and is looking for more.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.