UP Entertainment Keeps on Shining During the Upfront

By UPtv / Aspire InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: UP Entertainment Keeps on Shining During the Upfront

The world has seemed a little darker the past 14 months. But through all the chaos, UP Entertainment's linear TV networks have been a light, serving up positive programming for audiences looking for a break from the doom-and-gloom raging elsewhere on the dial. "We promise to uplift you every day," says Lisa Fischer, head of ad sales for UPtv and AspireTV. By uplifting its viewers with feel-good programming like Bringing Up Bates as well as the aspireMKTPLC, the networks have also seen their ratings lift even in a time of increasingly fractured linear audiences.

"We're the right brand at the right time," Fischer (pictured at right) adds. Indeed, that's the crux of UP Entertainment's ad sales pitch this Upfront: An extraordinarily brand-safe environment that reaches an ever-growing number of positive,passionate consumers who are looking to live and buy with purpose.

This is the second year Fischer has done her 250-plus presentations virtually, and she and her team have taken the opportunity to have some real fun, featuring a look at the sales team's lives under lockdown.

The client response thus far, Fischer says, has been overwhelmingly positive, and not just because of the team's lighthearted quarantine skits. UPtv has been surging in the ratings. Last year was the network's best year ever both financially and ratings-wise, and in Q1 2021 alone, it's up seven percent in the coveted women 25-54 demo from last year, making it the third-fastest-growing general entertainment network. Even before Q1, the network's Merry Movie Christmas event garnered 22 million viewers, up 11 percent from the year before.

What's the reason behind this growth? Well, all that positive content is a big one. Before the pandemic, UPtv's investment in original programming and quality acquisitions gave it a fully stocked pipeline, meaning it was one of the few destinations for new content throughout months of lockdowns. Season 9 of UPtv juggernaut Bringing Up Bates (photo at top), which has followed the Bates family of 19 over nearly a decade, was its most-watched ever, a nearly unheard-of feat.

Movie premieres every week give audiences a reason to keep coming back and strengthens their attachment to the brand. Those holiday programming stunts like “GilMORE the Merrier” and “Easter Lives Here” have been dynamite successes, Fischer says, and provide the kind of leaned-in audience that advertisers love. And UPtv's ongoing partnership with Larry Levinson Productions ensures the network will continue to have a robust slate of quality movies.

Meanwhile, AspireTV's stories of Black excellence and Black positivity found a new urgency amidst 2020's protests against police brutality and a rising awareness of the need to uplift Black voices in entertainment. According to AspireTV's most recent survey of Black TV viewers, there's still a void in the lifestyle category: While 83 percent of those surveyed watch lifestyle content every week, only 42 percent were satisfied with the way Black culture was represented in that content, and 85 percent want more lifestyle programs focused on Black culture.

To fill this void, AspireTV has entered into a partnership with Kin, the unscripted production company behind hits like talker Side by Side with Malika and Khadija Haqq and Just Angela, starring Angela Simmons (daughter of legend Rev. Run). The network is the go-to place for HBCU sports and all the content around those sports, like No Huddle's football pre-game coverage and Fastbreak for hoops.

AspireTV is where Black and urban audiences can see themselves reflected, which explains why AspireTV got top marks in that survey amongst its competitive set, with the highest affinity among Black adult audiences. Its commitment to lifting up the Black community extends beyond just programming, too. In 2019, the company launched aspireMKTPLC, a directory of Black-owned businesses, and Fischer says there is an opportunity there for advertisers.

UPtv and AspireTV's numbers are the kind that grab attention in a marketplace continuing to look for new value opportunities. What Fischer and her team are offering to clients is far more than a standard spot. Custom storyline integrations and product placement are in demand. Social and digital support, leveraging the UP community, is another value-add. And for the tech-minded out there, there's UP's partnership with Mirriad, the company that can digitally insert client logos and signage into movies and series. Additionally, the network’s expertise on the AspireTV viewer enables the team to create media and marketing solutions to support brands’ efforts to reach and be authentic to this desirable audience.

"There's a halo effect from our programming onto brands," Fischer explains. Audiences feel good about what they see, whether it's the programming itself or the ads. They feel part of a community. That's a rising tide that lifts all boats.

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