Drive On:  A+E Networks Adds “PowerNation” to its Automotive Lineup

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Cover image for  article: Drive On:  A+E Networks Adds “PowerNation” to its Automotive Lineup

“You know how to engage influencers?  Create a brand that attracts passionate audiences.  That is the original influencer marketing.”  This wisdom was shared with MediaVillage by Jim Hoffman, Executive Vice President, Program Partnerships and National Offices at A+E Networks, shortly after his return from another successful week at SEMA, the world’s premier auto specialty trade event held in Las Vegas.

“We were there promoting Drive, a dedicated programming block catering to the passions of auto enthusiasts,” he said.  Specifically, Hoffman (pictured below) and his team had gone to announce that in 2019, thanks to a new partnership with Raycom Media, Drive is adding RTM Studio’s PowerNation franchise -- America’s most watched how-to programming in the auto space -- to its roster.  This is big news, as it combines two titans of automotive television content.  PowerNation titles include Engine Power, XOR, Truck Tech and Detroit Muscle.  These shows will complement existing Drive hits including Counting Cars and Truck Night in America.  (The hosts of Truck Night in America are pictured at top with a fan in theDrive booth at SEMA.  Left to right: “Pistol” Pete Sohren, the fan, Abe Wine, Glen Plake and Robert “Bender” Park.)

"This is all part of our continued efforts to build passionate audiences,” Hoffman explained.  “Audiences, not shows, are what you build a strong brand around.

“Most marketers are dependent on particular shows,” he continued.  “But being dependent on a show is a little like playing roulette; you can win big, but what happens when the show ends?  The thing about audiences is that they transcend particular shows.  Once you’ve built an audience, you know that for any given block of time you can keep them even as the programming changes in and out.”

A+E Networks has built a stable of properties to attract passionate audiences, including History, A&E, Viceland, Crime & Investigation Network and several others.  Hoffman’s role is to help assemble the programming that attracts the desired audiences that these properties need to thrive.

“Historically, once you get outside of primetime programming has always been a revolving door of repeats,” he noted.  “Our goal has always been to package things up and present relevant content in a way that really attracts our core market.  Passionate audiences provide more than just stability; they really are the ones who are the most engaged.  For example, MRI Fusion data makes it clear that Drive viewers don’t just watch more automotive programming, they drive more.  They own more cars.  They spend more.  They are the true influencers.”

The Drive block (seen on History and FYI) is also bolstering its programming with original short-form, branded content.  “Every week, we showcase different pieces of new content created by our advertising partners,” Hoffman said.  “This could be anything from tips and tricks they’ve produced, to beautiful content pieces that they have designed but which have been limited in terms of distribution to their site, to YouTube, or to other, smaller channels.  This type of content is perfect for our fans and gives our partners an excellent platform for amplifying what they’ve lovingly created.  We can help dramatically increase its value by opening it up to a much larger audience than would otherwise be available.”

All of this comes together into Hoffman’s overarching strategy.  “Our philosophy is to create flexibility for highly customizable and scalable marketing programs,” he explained.  “Our clients can still engage us for a relatively low cost, but they also have the ability to scale up based on different variables, like length of flight, digital or social content they want to promote … whatever makes the most sense for them.”

The strategy has clearly worked well so far.  The Drive block started a little over a year ago and already boasts over 3.5 million total viewers.  “We’ve added 12 new sponsors over the last year, and there are more to come,” Hoffman said.  “We keep testing and expanding based on what works.”

Hoffman’s experience at SEMA has helped reinforce that he is on the right track.  “The enthusiasm there was phenomenal,” he exclaimed.  “Walking around the auto show with Danny Koker from Counting Cars, or the guys from ToyMakerz, you can tell they are absolute superstars.  People just love them.  We set them up for some events, and all of a sudden there are lines two and a half hours long filled with people waiting to get signatures!  That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about passionate audiences.”

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