For some time, lots of cost-conscious marketers have been gradually moving ad dollars out of predominantly female-skewing broadcast network primetime programming into female-skewing cable shows. While the strategy has either saved them money or gotten them more bang for their buck, they still reach mostly women with their ad messages.
But that has started to change, according to both media buyers and executives at some of the more male-skewing cable networks. More advertisers moved money in this most recent upfront into both male-skewing cable reality series and scripted shows viewed by large numbers of men.
Brent Poer, president of LiquidThread North America, the branded content unit of Starcom MediaVest Group, says “broadcast, as a whole, has just become very female, so marketers are looking to round out their messaging by advertising on programming that has a denser mix of males.”
While ABC seems to have a successful new male-skewing drama on its schedule this season in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., other would-be freshman hits for men such as Fox’s Dads and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and CBS’ We Are Men have so far failed to impress—which could open up even more dollars for male-skewing cablers.
“For a long time, marketers were moving ad dollars out of broadcast but into other female-skewing series on cable, particularly scripted series,” says Peter Olsen, senior VP of advertising sales at History. “Now you’re seeing more broadcast primetime ad dollars are moving into more male-skewing cable network series.”
Hoping to Script Success
“In general, outside of sports programming, the male audience continues to be underserved on television,” Olsen says, adding that “there’s still enormous room for growth. Some of the cable networks are really trying hard to capture more of that male audience. We are going to try to own that space going forward with new scripted dramas.”
History reality series hits such as Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Ax Men, Ice Road Truckers, Swamp People, Top Shot and Top Gear have always been a prime destination for marketers seeking to advertise to men. But more recently, History has also been drawing more ad dollars into male-skewing scripted series such as The Vikings, with several more series in the development hopper, including Houdini and Sons of Liberty.
Olsen says instead of waiting until the traditional program development meetings with the media agencies and advertisers, which usually take place in the spring before the upfront presentations, History is going to hold its scripted series development meetings beginning in November. The network will then be discussing scripted programming plans for 2015.
Marketing to men beyond sports telecasts also needs to be more than simply moving ad dollars from female-skewing broadcast series to male-skewing cable shows. Not only are men watching TV across multiple screens, but marketers are finding that the types of prgrams men watch continue to get more diverse.
Stephanie Gibbons, president of marketing and on-air promotions at FX, says the psychographic profile of the male TV viewer has changed over the years. Traditionally, it was assumed that all men were into action-type series, but Gibbons says “as the years have gone by, the gender differentiators have changed. What comprises male taste is changing, particularly in younger men who are more open to many different types of programming.”
FX draws a significant amount of female viewers, but it still has several shows that skew male, and some that are among the mostwatched scripted dramas on cable.
One of FX’s most popular series, the drama Sons of Anarchy, this season is skewing 56% male. Justified this season has skewed 64% male, while freshman series The Bridge is averaging 53% male and The Americans is at 56% male. On the comedy side, animated series Archer has a 76% male audience. The League, which now airs on FXX, has a male audience of 72%, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, also now on FXX, has a male audience of 70%. On FX, Louie skews 63% male, Wilfred is 62% male and Anger Management is watched by 57% men.
Other scripted cable series with sizable male skews include AMC’s The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad (which just ended after its fifth season) and Hell on Wheels; USA’s Burn Notice and Suits; TNT’s Falling Skies and Leverage; A&E’s Longmire and BatesMotel; and Syfy’s Defiance.
“It’s not enough to just reach men by gender and age anymore,” says Poer. “You have to follow them across traditional TV, VOD, digital and mobile, and across shows in order to reach the [male viewers] who are most valuable to each brand.”
Poer says while more ad dollars are moving from broadcast primetime to the maleskewing entertainment cable networks, those networks are not automatically going to get those new dollars. He says the networks that work with marketers to help them find and target their prime male customers across all screens are the ones that will reap most of these reallocated ad dollars.
Male-skewing networks need to be offering marketers and their agencies a holistic approach to reaching men. “Multiple screens, multiple touch points,” Poer says.
Doubling Up on the Marketing
Olsen says History has also started to get more involved with reciprocal marketing with its clients, where both the network and marketers share their assets across platforms. “We’re working with them to create websites together where they can help market our shows,” he says. And, Olsen adds, more heavy sports advertisers are beginning to move dollars into male entertainment programming, citing Geico, which did a major deal with The Vikings.
“Marketers are realizing that to fully reach all of their male targets, they need to supplement their sports advertising on the male entertainment networks,” Olsen says. “Sports marketers are no longer just doing major sponsorships with sports networks. We now have a seat at the table with those major marketers looking to reach men outside of TV sports.”
Scott Felenstein, executive VP of ad sales for Discovery Channel, Science Channel and Military Channel, says “sports are not the only thing men watch on television. Programming on our networks is a good complement to sports.”
Felenstein says because Discovery and the other networks own their content, “we can do a lot more with our advertisers. They can be woven into the content of the shows better than they can in sports telecasts. Our integrations offer a different way to break through the clutter. If a marketer advertises on an NFL telecast, they can get lost in the shuffle with so many brands doing commercials.”
Velocity network, also owned by Discovery Communications, has been helped by the recent shuttling of Fox's Fuel and Speed networks that led to the premiere of Fox Sports 1 in August. "With those two networks gone from the auto programming space, Velocity has a great opportunity to pick up viewers and advertisers," Felenstein says. "Its viewership is still relatively small but it is a passion channel for men interested in all aspects of cars. It serves a very focused audience but also one that's very hard to reach."
Felenstein says Discovery network continues to skew about 70% male and picked up close to 20 new advertisers in the most recent upfront with several of them in the insurance, movie and QSR categories. The network is also open for business for Shark Week 2014 he says. Calling it the network's "Super Bowl," Felenstein says sales for next summer's programming sharkfest began in the upfront with sponsorships and integrations currently being discussed.
In a similar vein, Olsen says History picked up some new business from both male-skewing movies and in the insurance category.
A&E reality show Duck Dynasty, now the hottest series on cable, skews close to a 50-50 split on male and female viewership, according to Jim Agius, executive VP of ad sales. Agius says the network has gotten some more male-skewing advertising on the show. A&E, which like History is part of A&E Networks, usually doesn't get truck ads, but Duck Dynasty has a campaign from Chevy Silverado. Other new advertisers targeting men on the series include Sony Playstation, Polaris, Jack's Links and Bass Pro Shops.
"The size of Duck Dynasty has brought more males into the network, but the show is really more family viewing," Agius says. "It's like a sitcom, wholesome family entertainment and one we can do a lot of brand integrations in."
Joe Hogan, executive VP of ad sales for Adult Swim, says his network is also drawing some marketers into the fold with its willingness to produce advertising "in surprising, different and unexpected ways."
Adult Swim recently worked with Subway to create a 90-second faux infomercial that highlighted the benefits of choosing Subway over other homemade sandwich options. State Farm also partnered with Adult Swim for a series of sweepstakes and contests at the heavily male-attended Comic-Con event in San Diego.
Adult Swim also brought its 40 X 60 ft., 10-room inflatable Fun House to the Con, where it was set up across from the convention center for the duration of the event. Adult Swim now plans to take the Fun House on a 10-city tour during 2014 and Hogan says some sponsors have already been signed up for the tour, which is sure to draw a lot of young men.
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