Old-School Cable Network FETV Sees 28% Upfront Volume Gain

FETV 10th Anniversary
(Image credit: FETV)

Despite a tough advertising market, Family Entertainment Television (FETV) had a big upfront, posting a 28% increase in volume.

FETV’s new executive VP for ad sales, Michael DuPont, told Broadcasting+Cable that buyers are still interested in linear cable channels, especially those that offer significant viewership and “efficient” pricing (that means less expensive to advertisers).

“I’ve only been here for six months and I’m just blown away by how many people just didn’t know what Family Entertainment TV was,“ he said. “And that it was a viable option in the cable linear space.”

Launched in 2013, FETV has steadily expanded its cable carriage and now reaches more than 50 million households.

FETV attracts an older audience — its viewers have a median age of 68 — and it plays to that, prioritizing attracting advertisers in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Four of FETV’s top five upfront advertisers were in the pharmaceutical business, and four of the five were brand new to the network, DuPont said.

In some ways, FETV is similar to where Hallmark Channel was 20 years ago without the original holiday movies. FETV has been adding distribution and viewers. It had been running mostly direct-response advertising, giving it nothing but room to grow in the general market.

“It’s really driven by the fact that we’ve got a safe programming environment and we’re delivering in flight and that we’re efficient,” said DuPont, who previously headed ad sales for Pop and has worked at Oxygen Media, Lionsgate and Nickelodeon.

Michael DuPont

Michael DuPont (Image credit: Pop)

Airing in flight means an advertiser’s message is delivered when bought, without waiting for makegoods to compensate for underdelivery. FETV is able to deliver in flight because its audience is growing and because it aims to make realistic audience projections.

DuPont sees FETV in a competitive set with other newer wholesome programmers including INSP, Reelz, UPtv and Great American Family.

In addition to pharmaceutical clients, FETV’s biggest categories are insurance and financial services. DuPont says FETV is also breaking into categories like quick-serve restaurants.

“It seems like once agencies get a taste, we end up getting more and more of their client roster,” he said, noting that the average size of FETV’s upfront deals was up almost 20% from last year.

DuPont said that in the upfront he did deals with four of the big ad-agency holding companies.

While FETV emphasizes family-friendly content, there are no brands or categories that it won’t accept. If a particular commercial might be offensive to FETV’s older audience, the creative will be reviewed and tweaked, but that’s pretty rare, DuPont said

The median age of FETV’s viewers is about 68, similar in range to some of the big news networks.

Most of the network’s ad deals are based on the 25-plus demographic. When it talks to pharmaceutical companies, they are usually looking for viewers in the 35-64 age bracket. It does some 18-49 business, but more buyers are willing to do a deal for 35-plus viewers.

Most of its deals are basic buys, so there’s not much work with advanced advertising or custom audiences. Some advertisers are interested in customized month-long sponsorships linked to the company’s shows, like a Quincy watch-and-win coming up in October.

DuPont said he’s building the FETV ad-sales team, adding people who have the right relationships with buyers and are also comfortable with what FETV is and what it isn’t.

At a time when ad dollars are shifting to digital and streaming, FETV is all cable, without a streaming strategy.

“This is who we are and this is what we can offer you,” Du Pont said. “It’s a pretty simple story. It’s an opportunity for people that are just looking for safe programming that delivers and is efficient.”

FETV’s year-old sister network, Family Movie Classics, is up to 25 million homes and should be in the general market sooner or later.

“It’s energizing and it makes you really want to do more and build off this momentum, so I’m excited for next year,” he said. “If I had a little more runway, we would have had an incredible upfront in a rather challenging year.”

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.