Saturday, November 16th, 2013



+10% W18-49
+8% W25-54

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Cynopsis Media Presents: Attracting the Female Demo

By Laura Brounstein

Girl, you are looking good.

Women are more attractive than ever to marketers and that, of course, means they are an ever more coveted demographic for television programmers as well. Why? Well, the two main factors are that women are watching more TV than men and that they making more purchasing decisions. A third and evolving aspect is that, according to a study done last year by Ericsson, women are more likely to use social media while they’re watching TV than men are, making them ambassadors for that show. So networks are trying harder than ever to create distinctive programming to appeal to them. Those doing so effectively – and that includes those that female – skewing nets like WE tv and Investigation Discovery and traditionally male-skewing nets, like Spike and SYFY, which are seeking to broaden their audience via shows designed for co-viewing – are reaping rewards in eyeballs, dollars and buzz. In the words of Stephanie Holland, President and CEO of Holland + Holland Advertising, and the founder of the marketing blog, “Smart networks find innovative ways to reach women.” If you’re a woman with a clicker, you’re having a good moment.



+45% W18-49
+47% W25-54

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Although according to IHS, the information and analytics company, 2013 will be the first year ever that total U.S. pay-TV subscriptions will decline (due to everything from alternative media to the fact that younger audiences increasingly watch their shows on anything but their television sets), the female TV viewing audience is less subject to that erosion than other market segments. According to Don Robert, the Senior Vice President for Programming and Marketing Research for A+E networks, the viewing levels of women 25-54 are 10% higher than their male counterparts and they watch 43 more minutes of television a week overall. Additionally, women 25-54 are watching 2% more ad supported cable this year than they did last year.

So as the race for female viewers has heated up, networks with the right blend of branding and programming are doing well. “We lead with character,” says Lauren Gellert, WE tv’s SVP of original production and development. And it’s working. WE tv has seen 28% growth among women 25-54 in the second quarter and 27% for women 18-49. The network scored a big hit with Marriage Bootcamp: Bridezillas, which took troubled couples who’d previously been featured on their show Bridezillas and gave them two weeks of intensive marriage counseling. Impressively, the show gained viewers throughout its first season, with 46% more tuning in for the finale than they did for the premiere.

While Marriage Boot Camp has a more structured format than the docusoaps that dominate the network, like L.A. Hair and Kendra On Top, Gellert says that the same filter is used when analyzing all programming. “Is this show led by someone who seems to have it all together but not quite?,” she explains. “Kim Kimble, the star of L.A. Hair is a perfect example of the characters at the core of our shows. She’s a celebrity hair stylist who runs her own business and is at the top of her game: she does Beyonce’s hair, Shakira’s hair, she even did Oprah’s big hair on the September cover of O. So she’s a woman you might aspire to be, but her world is full of the emotional highs and lows and crazies working for her.” Gellert adds that keeping the drama to a relatable level is important. “It’s not without its heated arguments, but there’s no hair pulling or chair throwing,” she remarks.

Staying away from over-the-top theatrics been key for enticing advertisers, says Allison Clarke, WE tv’s VP of ad sales. “The market is flooded with that kind of programming and the fact that we’re not is what makes us a unique proposition to advertisers,” she says. And that’s not just advertising that typically seeks a female audience. “We’ve grown in categories that don’t traditionally pursue females, such as auto and home improvement. There’s been a realization that women control a lot more of the wealth than they used to and that’s forcing advertisers to reconsider their campaigns. You can see it in the ads themselves,” Clarke points out. “Look at auto ads that show women walking into car dealerships. And if you’ve seen ads for Lowes and Home Depot you know that women are there, too.”



+20% W18-49
+18% W25-54


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Recent research supports Clarke’s assessment. A 2013 FleishmanHillard study of the spending habits of American women estimated that women will control two thirds of the consumer wealth in the United States over the next decade. “Women have never been more influential in controlling every dollar that households spend,” says Jeff Davis, the Americas’ co-leader for consumer products and services at Fleishmanhillard. “This is the fifth year we’ve done this study and we’ve seen an overall takeover by women of key purchasing decisions. And that includes categories where men have been strongholds in the past, like financial investments.” Stephanie Holland says that her research shows that women currently make a staggering 85% of all brand purchases. 

Henry Schleiff, the president and general manager of the Investigation Discovery network, or ID as it’s called, says outright that the potential pool of advertisers are one of the core benefits to having a strong female audience, which is why ID unabashedly courts women 25-54. “They’ve always been the North Star for the network and that helps our sales force with advertisers,” he comments. ID launched in ’08 and since then, it has risen from 50th place to 8th in terms of reaching those women. “Our genre is mystery and suspense, which appeals to a woman’s ability to puzzle solve, as well as their intuition.”

As a result, Schleiff says, “ID is the number one network of people who watch us without getting up from their television.” While the average length of tune-in time for ad-supported cable in prime time is 18 minutes, ID’s viewers stay with their shows, like Stalked and Surviving Evil for an average of 28.6 minutes. “The fact that they remain longer and pay attention to the commercials is the holy grail for advertisers. So even though we have relatively small numbers compared to broadcast, we’ve been able to grow our ad revenue enormously over a short period of time.”

In a fascinating trend, traditionally male-skewing networks are looking at women as well. Sharon Levy, the EVP of Original Series for Spike TV, says that they recently made “a very strategic decision to broaden our audience. We want our programming to appeal not only to our core guys, but we also want the women in their lives to be engaged, too.”

Spike’s plan seems to be working: The network saw more growth than any other Top 25 basic cable channel in the third quarter this year, with 26% higher ratings. Levy said that their marquee shows, Tattoo Nightmares and Ink Masters, both of which boast high female viewership, played a big role. “Our male audience admires the skill and craft involved, and women love tattoos. So it wasn’t a surprise that those shows were such great performers for us.”



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Levy says that such success is leading Spike to air scripted shows for the first time, in part because of the fact that the net tested programs with both women and men in focus groups. The results are a new series from magician Criss Angel and a miniseries about King Tut. “Everything goes through the same filter now: the point of entry has to be something that a guy would watch and a woman would want to watch as well.” Another change is the addition of female talent. Hungry Investors, which will debut next spring, will feature failing restaurants competing for a second chance from a group of celebrity food pros and one of them is a woman, Dallas-based chef Tiffany Derry. “She’s a Top Chef runner-up and a tough-as-nails unbelievable talent,” says Levy.

Mark Stern, president for original content at SYFY, agrees that focusing on reaching women can result in a higher-quality programming. “When we wanted to bring in a more balanced audience, that meant working with the best talent, making sure they had a great vision, and telling expansive stories.” They got it right. Ten years ago, SYFY’s 25-54 audience was 60% male. Now, women make up 47% of viewers. “Defiance was a huge hit for us this year and it’s a good example of a show that’s less mission-based and more character-based,” Stern comments.

One notable side effect of the focus on women is that serialized shows encourage more repeat viewing, “which generates more opportunities for female viewers to talk about the show, either through word of mouth and social media, which in turn builds loyalty,” comments A+E’s Don Robert.  Indeed, FleishmanHillard’s Davis says that women’s tendency to become envoys for what they like is another benefit. “Women feel more empowered than men about being advocates for something they think is a good product,” he points out.

That’s why on October 7th Nielsen launched a new metric: Twitter TV ratings, which will track the activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter. The number one tweeted show for the first week? ABC social media phenom Scandal topped the chart with 712,900 Tweets. The rest of the shows on the list were all female-skewing, including The Vampire Diaries, Glee and Dancing With The Stars. Looks like the ladies are talking, they know what they like, and smart programmers and marketers better listen.

Laura Brounstein

Roberta Caploe: Editorial Director
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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