Under-the-radar newer cable networks -- with less than 40 million subscribers -- are still finding ways to succeed in this ever-tougher TV environment.
BabyFirst says its key comes from co-viewing of young children and moms.
The 35-million-subscriber channel BabyFirst -- which has been around for six years as a subscription-based network -- now looks to transition to a limited ad-supported channel.
BabyFirst targets babies/young children 0 to 2 years old. This channel is a pre- pre-school channel -- not in competition with Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. or Disney-ABC Television's Disney Jr., which target pre-school kids.
"It's a mix of Baby Einstein and 'Sesame Street' -- but we do it in a better way," says Guy Oranim, CEO of BabyFirst. Three- to-seven-minute content segments, mostly focused on educated programming, occupy the network airwaves. Young and new moms 18-34 and 25-34 watch the network with their children. For TV marketers, Oranim says: "We are a women's network, not a children's network."
Sharon Rechter, executive vice president of business development and marketing for BabyFirst, says its co-viewing young mom daytime ratings are strong -- right behind the HGTV and Food Network, according to research from Kantar Media.
Most of its 35 million subscribers come from major new basic tier programming deals with Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network, which now get an undisclosed amount of advertising inventory. Other carriers, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications, still carry the channel as a premium service. BabyFirst's Rechter expects those carriers will move the channel to basic tiers. As a subscription TV network, BabyFirst has had a retail monthly price of around $5 a month.
BabyFirst will offer up limited advertising inventory to national marketers -- three to four minutes an hour, says Michael Daraio, president and partner of Trifecta Media, the company hired to be BabyFirst's exclusive advertising sale representative. By comparison, many advertising-supported cable networks have as much as 15 to 17 minutes of advertising time per hour.
Daraio says the network is open to sponsorship/promotional deals for programs as well as via digital resources on BabyFirst apps. BabyFirst's Rechter says those apps have been downloaded 2.5 million times.
Currently, BabyFirst doesn't have national U.S TV household penetration -- typically 70% or more of the 116 million TV homes -- which national TV marketers most times require.
Initially Daraio is targeting some foundation advertisers, such as baby products, pharmaceuticals and formula, as well as autos, insurance, and package-goods marketers.
Less traditional advertising revenues means BabyFirst needs other ways to find revenue. Rechter says this will come from sponsorships, merchandising and licensing. The BabyFirst limited advertising per hour signals to marketers that it will be a network with far less clutter -- better for advertising recall and impact.
Oranim says the network projects it will get to 50 million homes in 2013. A Spanish-language component for the network is also coming.