Throughout the years, TV has accumulated valuable audience data. This is often an untapped resource, though, as many networks fail to leverage the power found in their proprietary data: what their audience is watching, who they are, what other shows they watch and how they watch it. With access to so much information, networks have the ability to develop deep, layered profiles of their audiences and garner a complex understanding of what works to increase viewership and loyalty and what doesn’t. Networks that focus on creating an intimate audience comprehension can translate that knowledge to positively impact and ultimately maximize a range of business decisions.

There are several use-cases for such audience comprehension, and application of this knowledge is relevant to almost all aspects of the television business. Shows that have been wildly successful, such as “Breaking Bad,” have embraced data in such ways and as a result have reaped a wealth of return.

There are numerous examples of how an intimate understanding of an audience can power business decisions:

Demonstrating audience value to potential advertisers

The most obvious use-case for understanding a network’s audience is the ad sales process. With a solid comprehension of who is tuning into programming, ad sales teams can better articulate to advertisers the value of their inventory through its ability to effectively reach a particular audience. Networks that fully embrace data have strategically strengthened their role in this relationship by offering advertisers additional insights into their target audience. This information can be used to suggest a complimenting media plan with a range of inventory that best serves the advertiser’s needs.

Attracting additional audiences for shows

For any advertiser, audience data is important information when developing an advertising campaign. A network’s own advertising process is no different. With a deeper comprehension of the nuances of a particular show’s audience, a network can better identify other opportunities to engage with a similar audience. For instance, understanding any inter-network overlap is helpful for cross-show promotion and commercial placement within a network’s own available inventory. Alternatively, this information can help identify external advertising buys, from other TV networks to billboards and digital ads.

Identifying distribution partners

Syndication and distribution are increasingly important components of any television business. A granular comprehension of a network’s current audience is useful knowledge to reference when assessing potential distribution partners. If, for example, a network can pinpoint the profile of a particular show’s “super fan,” then it can look to external partners that reach a similar consumer profile. Looking to partners that serve an audience similar to a network’s will help identify the most beneficial relationship.

Creating compelling programming

Answering the question of why people like what they like is difficult. Ratings can only go so far to illustrate an audience’s preferences. But by combining ratings, proprietary audience data and other behavioral data, like transportation preferences or civic engagement, a network can better understand what content inspires some audiences to be casual viewers and others “super fans.”

Competition for viewership is higher and more diverse than ever. But with so much information now available, the answer to “what is working and why?” is no longer speculation. Looking internally to assess where success has already been achieved is the greatest recipe for attracting more of what works. As the television industry continues to fight to maintain its dominant role within the media ecosystem, gaining an intimate audience comprehension can be the best investment any media company can make.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.