MBPT Spotlight: TruTV Says Ad-Friendly Rebranding is Drawing Automakers

TruTV says its recent rebranding was partly spurred by suggestions from media agencies and their clients.

Starting Oct. 27, the network’s slogan will be “Way More Fun” and its new programming will offer more of an advertiser-friendly environment for marketers.

Joe Hogan, executive VP, young adult ad sales for Turner Broadcasting, who oversees TruTV ad sales, says clients wanted shows that were “less loud, controversial and highlighted by conflict.”

The network has been discussing programming strategies with media agencies and marketers for about a year and Hogan says those conversations led to deeper discussions about expanded commercial time buys and also about programming sponsorships and other tie-ins.

Hogan says one category of advertisers that has responded strongly is automotive. “Many auto advertisers who were just dipping their toe into the network are now fully jumping in with larger ad schedules,” he says. Other categories where advertisers have bulked up their ad buys include movie studios, insurance, quick service restaurants, financial and packaged goods.

The target audience of the new programming, Hogan says, is both men and women with a median age in the mid-30s. That compares to a more male-skewing schedule with a median age in the early to mid-40s for the previous programming lineup.

“Our new programming is also multiplatform friendly and can live on linear TV, online, mobile and social,” Hogan says. “We are offering advertisers ways to participate in platforms.”

And the fact that all of the new programming is owned by the network means it can do more brand integrations, Hogan says.

Fiat and Subway both are integrated into Impractical Jokers with both having customized dare segments. The Fiat segment was shot at a Washington, D.C. hotel where guests could use a Fiat at their leisure. That segment will air in October. The Subway segment was shot at a New York City location.

Party City will sponsor the season premiere of The Carbonaro Effect on Oct. 30. Bayer and Alka-Seltzer Plus will have a themed vignette tied to Fake Off clips in November. Meanwhile, Subway in January will be part of a “get fit” story line featured in Breaking Greenville.

Brian Hughes, senior VP, audience analysis practice lead at Magna Global says TruTV has struggled in coming up with the right programming formula since it was converted from Court TV in 2008.

“I think it’s fair to say they had a bit of an identity issue, between the Court TV history and a wide range of unscripted genres,” Hughes says. “Since they will be focusing on comedy, it will be interesting to see how they distinguish themselves from TBS.”

TBS, like TruTV, is part of Turner Broadcasting, and has been branded a comedy network by the company with its slogan “Very Funny.” TBS does have some comedy game shows, but its programming consists primarily of original scripted comedies and big name syndicated sitcoms such as The Big BangTheory, Seinfeld, Friends and The Office.

Billie Gold, director of TV programming research at Carat, says in addition to getting advertisers back on board, TruTV is going to have to promote the programming changes to viewers in order to bring them into the network to view the new lineup.

“I think it’s great that they are dropping most of their programming that many advertisers just didn’t want to be associated with, and replacing it with more family-friendly shows and advertiser-friendly shows, but they have a big task ahead of them,” Gold says. “It would be smart for them to promote the new lineup and rebranding of the network on both TBS and TNT to reach viewers that might not have been watching the network previously.”

Gold adds, “New advertisers will test the waters now but a lot is going to depend on the ratings that all these new shows get between now and the next upfront. The agencies and advertisers will be watching to see if their ratings and audience composition improves.”

To launch its new identity, TruTV will offer 60 new episodes of programming in a 65-day period.

“Our new programming is more positive and upbeat,” Hogan says. “Advertisers told us they wanted different content and this is our answer to their feedback. The bulk of our old schedule of programming is not coming back.”

Instead, the network’s new programming schedule will be built around two programs that marketers like best—reality series Impractical Jokers and The Carbonaro Effect.

Canceled shows include Container Wars, Storage Hunters, Panic Button, Caught Red Handed, Combat Pawn, Las Vegas Jailhouse, Police POV, Guinness World Records Unleashed, Upload with Shaq, Motor City Masters, Conspiracy Theory and Kentucky Bidders. Full Throttle will continue to air in repeats, but no new episodes have been ordered.

TruTV recently greenlit a back order of Hard Core Pawn for this season. That series is one of the network’s highest rated in C3 and while Hogan did not discuss programming moves, sources familiar with the situation say the series, which follows a family-run pawn shop in a tough neighborhood in the Detroit suburbs, will in future focus more on the pawn transactions and less on the behavior of unruly customers clashing with shop staff.

The first pair of new shows to air on the “new” TruTV will be on Monday, Oct. 27 when ambush game show Hair Jacked premieres at 8 p.m. with back-to-back episodes, leading into a special at 9, The New TruTV: First Look, that will provide viewers with a view of all the new shows coming to the network. That will be followed by performance competition series Fake Off.

Two more new shows will premiere on Tuesday, Oct. 28 with How to Be A Grown-Up at 10, where comedians offer advice on how to behave as an adult, and sketch-comedy series Friends of the People at 10:30.

TruTV will offer a sneak peek episode another new competition series Barmageddon on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 10, with the series then launching in December.

The Carbonaro Effect, which follows comic/magician Michael Carbonaro performing his tricks on an unsuspecting public, returns with fresh episodes on Thursday, Oct. 30 at 10 p.m.

Then in December, the network will premiere reality series Branson Famous, a reality series musical, and Breaking Greenville, which looks at the rivalry between news teams at small town TV stations.