"They have a better handle on what they're doing than they ever have," said Empower Media Marketing national media manager Susan McLennan. "As a group they are working very hard to make sure that buyers understand their strong points. For example, some networks are skewing older. Some are skewing more female. Some are just growing at a great rate. Who would have thought a year ago that The Learning Channel would be as hot as it is?"
The Learning Channel, Court TV, USA and TNN are among those most mentioned as the networks that have done research and created markets that then get presented to the buying community. They will be rewarded with a greater share of upfront dollars. Part of that effort this year, has been the result of creating good deals for planners and buyers. Those deals have often included innovative product placements and new ad positioning.
"The cable channels have been good at creating good deals," said Deutsch chief media officer Peter Gardiner. "In a way that has been the evolution of cable. They have driven a lot of their own market value by adding more value to what they put on the air."
Still, some buyers see cable as a way to insure the scatter market. For example, Universal McCann senior VP Murray Dudgeon believes that because the upfront market takes so much money off the table, that cable is a necessary scatter market buy. That way, if a client changes market directions, cable can be the vehicle that carries that new message.