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History Woos Media Buyers With Data on Modern Men

Complete Coverage from B&C: Upfront Central

The History channel, which has been attracting an unprecedented number of male viewers, wants media buyers to know it knows a few things about modern men, too.

Mike Greco, the network’s executive VP for strategic insights, is getting ready for the upfront ad market by going from agency to agency with a new study he calls “Dude-ology.”

Some of Greco’s findings explain why shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers are surprisingly popular with young men. And others are being put out there just to help media planners ! nd more effective ways of reaching the demographic.

“It was informative and educational and meant to shed a whole new layer of light on young males,” says Francois Lee, VP and activation director at media agency Media- Vest, the ! rst agency to see the research. “It was good to see them doing that and not hard-selling the network.”

The presentation says that while careers are still a big part of how men define themselves, family is becoming a bigger priority. Greco says that 86% of men say they help out with household chores more than their fathers did, and 82% say they play with their children more.

And at a time when women are getting more involved in traditionally male roles, from being political leaders to network news anchors to action movie stars, men are “masculinizing” other forms of behavior—like interpersonal communications. For instance, 63% of men said they talk on the phone at least once a week with another man about subjects other than work.

And Greco says it’s not just girls and sports they’re talking about. About 47% say they talk about family and another 21% say they discuss parental advice. Among the things that haven’t changed: men tend to have these conversations one-on-one, while women do it in groups.

Some traditional men’s activities are seen as making a comeback: fishing trips, poker night, home brewing. The “man cave” phenomenon has also been perking, though Greco says guys don’t necessarily need a physical space for a man cave because for some, spending time at Home Depot or Best Buy does the trick.

But men are also interested in women who are interested in traditionally male things. But those women have to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the subject, like the woman driver in History’s Ice Road Truckers, who is “at least as crazy as the men” who drive across frozen roads, Greco says.

Greco adds that men enjoy getting information along with their entertainment, and (here comes the sell) many popular History series embody that, including Pawn Stars and Modern Marvels. At the same time, a show like TopShot revives old male worlds of soldiers and gunfighters, while American Pickers plays on guys’ compulsion to collect stuff.

History’s new show Only in America With Larry the Cable Guy celebrates local traditions, from making moonshine in Georgia to jumping frogs in California.

“They have made a lot of strides in becoming a destination,” says MediaVest’s Lee. “It’s not really the History channel that we know from even five years ago, when it was much olderskewing and all about World War II. Now with shows like American Pickers, it really presents a different environment.”

History is coming off record ratings in January, with impressions up 23% among both men 25-54 and 18-34. On Monday, Jan. 31, Pawn Stars beat all other shows at 10 p.m. on broadcast and cable in all adult and male demographics.

Lee says the research has more credibility because the agencies know Greco, because he did similar research about millennials when he was with MTV, and about women when he worked with Lifetime before it became part of AETN.

Greco says it took about seven months to pull together the research, which used everything from census data and focus groups to neuro-technology, which is designed to get subconscious responses from guys, free of political correctness.

In focus groups and one-on-one research, Greco says he was “pleasantly surprised the guys talked” as much as they did. “I thought it would be like pulling teeth,” he says, adding that offering Best Buy gift cards got the boys to do their homework.

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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.