Building Network Brands Takes Character -- But(t) That's Not All

Flipping through DirecTV's electronic program guide (EPG) for some mid-evening entertainment from Universal Sports, what did I see? Figure skating, skiing, snowboarding, and... Brazil Butt Lift.

A new Olympic sport?

EPGs have always been a TV marketing tool of sort, giving us shorthand for a channel's real identity. (Hey, in the old days -- and even today -- TV Guide was a huge marketing tool for the networks, specifically because of its program guide).

Now, quicker program changes -- as well as infomercials (or paid programming with titles) -- are all part of EPG fodder. Executives of Rovi Corp. might tell you that EPGs can be the center of everything, the home page of the modern entertainment consumer.

No excuse here. An educated consumer is the best customer. We've been told for years that we watch programs, not networks. For many, picking programs from different networks throughout an evening was the earliest form of "a la carte" programming -- "Big Bang Theory," followed by "American Idol," then "The Office," and finally "Private Practice." No penalty.



Still, the habit of hanging around a particular network is why a big rating lead-out from "American Idol" can do wonders for a new Fox show. But looking around the world of Internet buzz, plenty of people get pissed at one network. Cancel someone's favorite show? That can get you in trouble sometimes.

So I asked my wife, “What is your favorite network?” This wasn't an easy question. She had to think about the shows on the networks, which took some doing. Then she said it was either ABC or CBS. She started to walk away, then quickly turned around.

"No, wait. It's USA. It's about the characters. The shows are fun and light." Right now, a USA Network marketing executive is saying. "Give her an A-plus."

USA’s tagline is "Characters Welcome," and its programming executives would say the philosophy of shows like "Burn Notice," "Royal Pains," "Fairly Legal," "White Collar" and "Psych" is about "fun" and "light" story content.

Universal Sports also has a strong identity. In a big world of sports programming, Universal’s niche is Olympic sports. So we quickly think of those big rating events: skating, skiing, and swimming.

Broadcast networks still don't need identities so much (but that's changing, for sure). CBS has a lot of crime procedural dramas, but a number of good sitcoms and reality shows as well. Fox has some shows with a lot of singing, but also some quirky comedies and dramas.

"Brazil Butt Lift"?  My network preferences always welcome character.

2 comments about "Building Network Brands Takes Character -- But(t) That's Not All".
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  1. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, February 13, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.

    Hey Wayne - I have always felt that TV Networks and cable channels have done a poor job in terms of managing their brands and positioning (the exception, as you pointed out, being USA). The reality is customers / viewers develop their own perception of a network's brand and positioning and, unless they are given some guidance, that brand image / positioning may not be what that networks would like it to be.
    I enjoy your posts.
    Cheers - Jerry

  2. Ricky Weeks from flocs, March 13, 2012 at 11:41 p.m.

    TV. Was always free,when I grew up.All 3channels.There's alot more out there now,not all TV significant to cable rights are paid. Chargeing the public for a service that's also free,is out of control. I guess we,will see who gives up first.The state of the economy being what it is, cost have to be cut somewhere, Gas,prices affect the price of every thing else.Free sounds pretty good to me.

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