How To Brand A TV Network: Q&A With Turner's Jon Marks
Interview videos can be viewed here. Below is an excerpt:
CW: You were able to take two networks (TNT and TBS) that were considered similar (in some cases even shared similar programming) and, using research, segment and differentiate them. Can you go into the research that you did to break out your two networks?
JM: It all started with TNT in 1999, where we did a very standard telephone interview segmentation study, sample size of 1,500. We asked our respondents what interested them while they were watching television and the genres that they watched. We then did a factor analysis and a segmentation that identified a segment that is very much drawn to programming that makes you think and feel. We also saw that they were sitcom-adverse. We called them “The Drama Club” at that time -- and through that same segmentation, we found another segment, an opposite group , who very much wanted to laugh and feel good when they watch TV. Drama programming was, frankly, too intense and serious for them.
We also identified a couple of other segments who loved everything, which we called “Cable Potatoes” because they spent about 45+ hours per week watching TV, almost all of it on cable, and “Broadcast Potatoes” who were also heavy viewers but many of them did not have cable. “Broadcast Potatoes” were very broadcast-dependent. And then there were “Sports Lovers.” It was such a clear road map to differentiate the networks. We needed a drama network, which is what TNT became. We needed a comedy network, which is what TBS became. And over the years, we followed up the study and migrated it to the Internet.s
CW: You have branded your networks globally, taking an umbrella concept (such as drama) and building programming around it. There are networks like FX and AMC that transformed their brands via specific individual programs. What is the difference in brand-building techniques, the potential for success and the challenges in each method?
JM: There is no question that consumers focus more on programs and can often be oblivious to the network they air on…But I also believe that branding a network is extremely important. I often compare it to a department store where you have a product line, and in every given year you have certain departments within your store that are really driving sales or certain items that are really popular. But that evolves over time.
It is the same way with a television network. Over the long haul, you craft an image and you cultivate both regular shoppers as well as occasional shoppers. Beyond the viewers, it is important to cultivate a brand for your internal constituents. If you don’t have a cogent brand for your network, any idea can be a good idea. A brand acts as a filter to help you best narrow down the best choices. It imposes a sense of internal discipline, which is very important. It is also important for our distributors, who want to offer diverse offerings, and our advertisers, who have an array of programs to choose from that offer an appropriate environment for them.