Outdoor Channel: A Niche, But a Big One

The Outdoor Channel isn't the biggest in its category, but it's shown some interesting gains in 2002. The Global Outdoors subsidiary began Nielsen Media Research ratings in April and in November, reached a record rating and household delivery.

Nielsen's November survey found The Outdoor Channel received the highest primetime cable coverage area among male-oriented cable networks: 0.3, compared to a 0.1 for The Golf Channel, 0.1 for Outdoor Life Network and 0.2 for The Speed Channel. The Outdoor Channel is delivered to more than 18.7 million nationwide - up from 5 million in January 2002 - and has recently been picked up by DIRECTV. Advertising revenues have also accelerated in Q4.

The channel focuses on programming for hunters and anglers, with 100 weekly hunting and fishing series plus shows on rodeo, off-roading and country music.

Greg Harrigan is director of advertising sales at The Outdoor Network.

MDN: How has the transition to Nielsen ratings done?

Harrigan: It's always been a niche channel, but The Outdoor Channel decided to step up to the plate and get Nielsen rated. Stepping up to accountability, it's really paid off for us. Our format really appears to resonate in the outdoor community.

MDN: What have you found?

Harrigan: We have 17.6 million subscribers. Our nearest peer in the niche, Outdoor Life Network's distribution was 45 million. Our distribution story is that we have about 40% of their distribution. However, when you look at household delivery, which is an apples to apples comparison, our household delivery is 59,000 households from 7-11; theirs is 49,000 [households].

MDN: What do you tell planners about The Outdoor Network?

Harrigan: Our format is what the outdoorsmen want to see: Live action in the field. We like to call it reality TV, to use a current buzzword in the industry. This is real hunting, real fishing out in the field. That's driving our distribution. The channel's being discovered by the outdoors community. It goes without saying: when you get the distribution and eyeballs, you attract the advertisers. We're seeing significant momentum in ad sales.

MDN: I'm a planner, interested in targeting males. What does The Outdoor Network offer me?

Harrigan: The Outdoor Channel has the highest concentration of males, 25-54, of any cable network. If you look at the viewers, we're the purest male buy on TV; 80% of the viewership is male.

MDN: But it's a niche.

Harrigan: Almost all of our viewership is male, 18-55. One of the amazing things, there's twice as many bass fishermen as golfers. There are 50 million hunters and fishers. It's a niche to be sure, but a big one. We're really talking to a community. It's reflected in our ability to delivery a significant viewership with a still-emerging distribution story.

MDN: There are outdoors programming on other channels, too. [TNN, ESPN and ESPN2, regional Fox Sports channels]. How do you differentiate yourself?

Harrigan: Our delivery, depending on the show, is in the neighborhood of half to one third of the ESPN shows at one-sixth the size.

MDN: What's ahead?

Harrigan: We're focusing on continuing to grow distribution. We're seeking to take our story to the top 100 male-oriented brands in the country. We're looking to penetrate the automotive, pickup truck, beer, male-personal grooming, any of those categories. Anything you see on Monday Night Football, we want to see on our channel, because we deliver a tremendous demographic. We're going to make an investment in research. That's our big initiative for 2003, to have every piece of the puzzle in place for media buyers and planners to recommend to their clients.

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