APRIL 28, 2008 -
While last season's C3 ratings flap more or less shoved research out of the upfront spotlight, the run-up to the 2008 bazaar has seen the number crunchers flooding back into the conversation in a big way. Engagement--a catch-all term that covers everything from viewer attentiveness and recall to the somewhat fuzzier quality of emotional connection--has regained traction this spring, especially among the niche networks that serve a very particular and finely-targeted audience.
As the sole ad-supported network devoted to gay and lesbian interests, Viacom's Logo is something of a boutique brand. With just north of 30 million subscribers, the channel does not report Nielsen Media Research ratings, making it difficult to quantify the following it has been able to build up since launching three years ago. At the same time, Logo offers a rather unique proposition to its upscale demo, which is estimated to comprise 19 million Americans with a combined buying power of around $800 million.
Since Logo isn't in a position to tout its ratings performance, research serves as an alternative currency as it heads into the upfront push. According to a Simmons Research study that quantified eight distinct dimensions of audience engagement, Logo tops all ad-supported broadcast and cable nets in two demos (adults 18-34 and 18-49), while taking second place among the 25-54 set.
Logo viewers in the 18-34 demo are 21 percent more engaged than viewers who tune in to the other 101 networks that were measured in the study; likewise, viewers who fall into the 18-49 demo are 23 percent more engaged. In both cases, Logo squeaks by two established brands in Food Network and HGTV. (Food Net is the most engaging channel among viewers age 18 and up, overindexing with a score of 127.)
"It doesn't particularly surprise me that the niche networks rise to the top, because they speak to folks that share a very particular affinity," said Lisa Sherman, executive vp, general manager, Logo, who notes that engagement tends to translate into ad receptivity. Among all three major demos, Logo viewers are most likely to watch ads on the channel because they tend to be relevant to their interests.
"Our viewers are very curious about the companies that want to reach them," Sherman said. "This is a highly sophisticated audience and they are very aware when they're being messaged to."
That vigilance often leads to a purchase, said Howard Buford, president/CEO of Prime Access, a multicultural advertising firm. "Gay men and lesbians report significantly higher intent-to-purchase scores when advertisers specifically portray their lives and sensibilities,' Buford said. "Advertisers are listening."
Hegemony aside, it's not necessarily the top destination for the demo. Per a New American Dimensions study, gay viewers said that their favorite network was ABC, followed by Discovery Channel, NBC, Logo and Bravo.