Content Enthusiasts Drive Programming and Sponsor Engagement

By Janet Stilson A+E Networks Archives

A fresh set of marketing opportunities is gathering momentum at A+E Networks as its sales team meets with clients during the Upfront season armed with compelling research results and an expanded slate of opportunities. That has particular significance for Jim Hoffman, A+E's Executive Vice President, Program Partnership and Strategic Initiatives, as he was tasked with executing the so-called "Enthusiast" solution when he joined the network about a year-and-a-half ago after working at NBC for over 20 years.

The Enthusiast concept seeks to breathe new life into content on Saturday and Sunday mornings across the network group's History, A&E, Lifetime and FYI brands. The blocks of programming target some key audience passion points and are largely comprised of hit programming (original and reruns) interlaced with content that promotes various advertiser products.

Executive Vice President of Ad Sales Peter Olsen explains that through an increase in advanced targeting and analytics, A+E was able to identify some audience passion points, and Enthusiast meets their programming desires. "Rather than finding the audience in programs scattered across our portfolio, we are creating a destination of 'always on' content dedicated to these passion categories," he says.

Two Enthusiast genres are already up and running and have created a baseline of insights for future deals. One is History's "Outdoors," which has been home to a campaign with the outdoor cooler and drink-ware company Yeti and involves series like Mountain Men and Swamp People. Then there is A&E's "Home.Made." which is powered by FYI and includes the series Tiny House Nation.

Ratings and Advertiser Results

The two-pronged goal of creating a better viewing experience for passion audiences and a highly customizable, scalable proposition for advertisers has started to pay off.

"With an audience-first approach and flexibility in our show formats we are seeing significant success on all fronts," says Hoffman. "In fact, ratings for programming within an Enthusiast block that started last fall were up 20%.

"We have also been able to change the audience dynamics," he adds.  "What we're seeing in our 'Home.Made.' block is a significant increase in our upscale demographic profile."

The results for advertiser products can also be significant. Take, for example, the Yeti experience: According to A+E analytics, the Yeti campaign saw the following increases:

  • 68% in unaided brand awareness;
  • 107% in ad recall;
  • 31% in brand favorability;
  • 31% in purchase intent.

New Themes and Opportunities

Several Enthusiast deals are just emerging with advertisers in such categories as hand-held power equipment, recreational vehicles, paint companies, high-end cookware suppliers and travel.  As the momentum builds, A+E is expanding the types of Enthusiast program themes. "Self.Made." their beauty and fashion block on Lifetime, will premiere this fall. An "Auto" block on History rolls out this summer.  A "Collectibles" block on History is expected to debut in the fall with a new original show, paired up with series like Pawn Stars.

In general, Enthusiast advertisers have the option of complementing the network's series episodes with interstitial programming that could include long-form or short-form content the clients have created themselves.  The blocks also can feature original shorts produced by in-house agency 45th & Dean that are informational in nature and feature the advertisers' products, with show talent as hosts. For example, two members of the Landry family, stars of History's Swamp People series, hosted original content featuring Yeti products.

To create a better viewing experience reduced commercial loads are an option.  Also, each Enthusiast campaign has robust digital and social components.

Despite all the success, Hoffman sees room for change.  The plan is to build out a robust social and digital platform that runs 365 days a year to satisfy the desire for this kind of content. "At the end of the day, we want to have an ongoing dialog with that audience that's not dependent solely on the linear platform," he says.

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