Cynopsis Special Report: FETV Delivers



Cynopsis Medias First Morning Read


Wednesday April 7, 2021

FETV Hits the Mark for Viewers – And Advertisers

Cathy Applefeld Olson

While the TV marketplace continues to weather disruption, FETV is bucking the storm in a big way. The family-friendly network is riding a wave of enthusiasm for timeless content, and leveraging its position as an indie channel by offering clients an engaged audience, a highly effective ad purchase and ease of execution.

“We believe the industry model is broken. It’s almost expected that when a buyer places an order, they’re not going to get what they purchased in its totality,” says Drew Sumrall, President/CEO of FETV.

“We don’t think that should be the case. Just like any other transaction, we believe if a customer buys a product you should deliver exactly what they purchased. It’s important to us that our clients know when they buy a schedule from us, we are going to deliver that audience.”


Strong Audience Engagement

The product FETV delivers—a slate of evergreen series ranging from “Bewitched” and “Perry Mason” to “The Wild Wild West” and “Matlock”—is resonating more strongly than ever with audiences. From interest generated by nostalgic-leaning new programming from Disney+ to HBO, viewership is expanding in all directions.

Currently in 50 million homes, FETV ranks No. 11 of all cable networks in Length of Tune, according to Nielsen. The network’s audience watches and responds to commercials. To boot, nostalgic comedy shows featuring famous casts and content are experiencing a resurgence. Some shows tipped the scale with as much as a 400 percent increase in TV viewing minutes year over year from 2019 to 2020, according to new Nielsen research.

“There’s a very good reason this content continues to deliver—these are some of the most beloved series of all time,” says Karen Bressner, FETV EVP of national advertising sales, who points out FETV’s salient crossover with the key News demographic of A35-64.

“For clients who want that News audience, this is a way to extend their reach. News viewership is more and more inconsistent and unreliable. Our viewers are not necessarily politically skewed one way or another,” she says. “They are an active demo, and they have money to spend.”

FETV’s 35-plus core audience is also a highly desirable demographic, Sumrall notes. “Our viewers have a lot of disposable income. They own their own homes, and the research shows they buy a lot of products, not only for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren.”


An Effective, Efficient Ad Buy

FETV is riding into the 2021 Upfront market with strong momentum. Last year the network guaranteed gross rating points in flight to all advertisers—and it successfully hit the mark.

“Coming out of the fourth quarter, all scatter deals delivered between 96 and 104 [percent]. Right now, every single one of our deals is delivering their demo guarantees,” Bressner says. “We don’t owe anyone more than maybe a percent or two, tops. Our clients are happy they delivered, and they are coming back.”

How did FETV work its magic? The sales team closely watched the schedule on a weekly basis and communicated with clients to let them know where they were delivering. The operations team put recaps on all the schedules to start, then took them back if they weren’t needed. Audience Deficiency Units (ADUs) were added if needed. “We made sure all advertisers were taken care of,” she says.

The level of professionalism and individualized service is paying off. “I have nothing but accolades about the service, the professionalism, the targeting I needed,” an agency executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity tells Cynopsis.

The executive says FETV’s status as an independent network in a market dominated by behemoths is also attractive to clients. “The market is extremely strong, so it’s nice to include somebody different that’s not part of a big parent company where we can’t just buy one piece and are being forced into doing an entire parent company deal. There are some clients who want to work with the bigger networks to buy their one platform [concept], but there are some clients that only want to play in a little bit of it, and don’t want the whole platform for targeting purposes.”

Rather than chase viewers in an increasingly fragmented marketplace, Sumrall says FETV will remain steadfastly dedicated to the linear TV model. The CPMs involved with streaming services are “a nonstarter” for a multitude of ad buyers, he says, noting the linear audience is loyal and the model will continue to thrive.

“There’s a misnomer of what cord-cutting really is. More often than not it’s cord-swapping—simply swapping one kind of paid television subscription for another, if not several,” he says. “Without question, there are systemic issues in the marketplace, particularly the price point consumers are asked to pay for basic cable, and there will have to be a correction in the coming years to stabilize the industry. But I believe that correction will occur for two reasons: First, the consumer doesn’t want to subscribe to a dozen different services in an attempt to locate their favorite programs; and second, linear television remains the most powerful and cost-effective medium for corporate America to advertise their products.”


Have It Your Way

In a business often characterized by inflexible table stakes and long lag times from concept to execution, FETV’s sweetest icing on the cake may just be that it is easy to work with.

“We truly want to have a partnership with our clients,” Bressner says. “One thing we all know is that making deals turnkey is what advertisers are looking for. We are all about the turnkey, easy to execute idea. Our salespeople don’t have to go through a lot of layers for approvals. We have a direct line to the decision makers, and can better serve our clients.”

The FETV schedule is organized for maximum flow of viewership into and between dayparts. The network presents sponsorable, curated blocks and stunts quarterly. Themed lineups, marathons, holiday celebrations and other ad hoc sponsorable events are available throughout the year.

Among new offerings that are straightforward for brands to execute are pop-up ads that appear in context of a scene. “All the client has to give us is a billboard with a tagline, and we find a scene in a show that is just the right fit. The pop-up could be on screen for 10 seconds or more, depending on how long the scene is,” Bressner says.

She and her team are out in the field enticing clients with examples of sponsored in-scene content: A detergent placement in “Bewitched” when Samantha is doing laundry. A coffee ad could pop up during a “Perry Mason” scene where the characters are drinking coffee at a meeting.

Ultimately, the FETV modus operandi is about a drama-free environment, Sumrall says.

“We live in an era of constant controversy. Every week we’re witnessing self-inflicted wounds across the industry. Threats of lawsuits, name calling, finger pointing… FETV doesn’t want to participate in any of that. For us it’s about delivering the audience we promised with a positive, family-friendly product that everyone involved—from our team to our affiliates to our viewers to our clients—can feel good about,” he says.

“Whether it’s simple subscriber loss, or underperforming networks not being able to deliver the gross ratings points in flight, what buyers are looking for is a partner like FETV who’s working hard for them and their clients by delivering what they promised.”

Cynopsis Team

Lynn Leahey
Editorial Director
Kerry Smith
Division President
Access Intelligence

Roberta Caploe

Cynopsis Ad Sales
Albert Nassour
Cynopsis Job Listings Sales
John Cox



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