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MEDIA VOICES: A+E Networks Champions Digital as Much as TV Ad Buying



Mel Berning
President, Ad Sales
A+E Networks

Television continues its reign in the advertising spend game, but digital ad spending is climbing. A+E Networks sees these two as complements in an integrated buy for advertisers. Mel Berning, president of ad sales for A+E Networks, spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about the current state of the TV ad spend market and how it aligns with online.

eMarketer: Among your advertisers, how is the allocation of dollars shaking up between TV and digital today?

Mel Berning: The cable piece is still our biggest growth area when looking at the allocation of dollars from our advertisers. We also are seeing rapid growth in the digital category. A+E is growing its digital display and video revenue percentages, ranging from 20% to 30% per year. But this is coming off of a tremendously smaller base than our linear [cable] business. A+E has had its linear business for 25 years, and we do several billion dollars’ worth of advertising business there. Our digital business is a smaller percentage of that total.

eMarketer: Do you view online as a detractor from your TV ad dollars?

Berning: Online is a huge complement to our linear business. In a lot of ways, we’re offering our viewers and consumers the opportunity to see that content more conveniently. Many of the impressions we generate online are from people who are watching linear episodes on a different platform.

Nielsen has promised to come out with a currency measurement by the end of this year. Once that measurement allows agencies, advertisers and us to transact business more easily and efficiently, we’ll see a huge spurt in growth for online video.

“People who watch across platforms have an increased ability to remember and recall the ad. Their perception of the advertiser all goes up pretty dramatically.”

eMarketer: Can you share an example of where online has complemented linear well?

Berning: We’ve done this successfully for our big specials such as “Bonnie & Clyde” or the “Vikings” series. Also, with our other channel, HISTORY’s “Mankind The Story of All of Us” and “The Bible.” For this programming, we combined linear and convergent or cross-platform buys together for advertisers.

If we’re able to complement the linear sponsorship with a deep dive on the websites into other video and more detail on the programs, we find that the recall and likability go up tremendously. People who watch across platforms have an increased ability to remember and recall the ad. Their perception of the advertiser all goes up pretty dramatically.

eMarketer: What trends are supporting or taking away from your TV ad spending?

Berning: A trend we see emerging is that TV and online are really complementary spends. It’s all part of the advertiser’s media plan. It works well for advertisers to drive reach and branding on linear, particularly with categories such as automotive and movies.

A movie has a week to launch a product and then generate box office on opening weekend. We see the big movie companies loading up on inventory a week in advance of the premiere. They drive reach quickly on linear—two-thirds to three-quarters of the TV households in the US in a week on television. Then they support that through digital with deep dives in content, trailers and previews. It’s a complementary set of tools in their media plan.

eMarketer: But are they always complementary?

Berning: It’s not this battle to the death. It’s a circumstance where, in five or six years, digital will be an essential part of the media plan, and they’re offering marketers additional tools.

Most advertisers still believe that the branding power of TV is a tool that can’t be matched in other media. An advertiser can build reach across the US population base very quickly through TV, including broadcast and cable. You can’t do that when you get into the more fragmented media. Digital is where brands can deliver much more detailed information. Or, they can be more transactional. It also offers the ability to drive people to websites.

“Digital is where brands can deliver much more detailed information. Or, they can be more transactional. It also offers the ability to drive people to websites.”

eMarketer: What benefits do brands get from TV advertising not available from other media, such as online, mobile or print?

Berning: That’s the big question, and we’re only beginning to understand it. With TV, you get sight, sound and motion. It’s also about the immediate reach. When an advertiser is able to put together a very compelling 30- or 45-second spot and tell their brand story, they can do that in a very emotional, compelling and persuasive way. That’s the power of television—to deliver that branding message to a large chunk of the country immediately.

In a display, banner or text ad, the advertiser is not able to convey that same sense of emotion and vitality. They are different tools. They are more informational—and closer to the transaction.

eMarketer: What do you think is driving online viewing?

Berning: We are seeing a shift from our linear into our digital properties. Advertisers are shifting budgets to follow the viewing. Most of the viewing that’s occurring online is driven by cable assets. About 80% of the online viewing is actually cable programming. We definitely see the shift of dollars, but it’s following the viewership.

eMarketer: Do you think TV will become less important to brands as an advertising vehicle?

Berning: No. We have to accept the broader definition of TV as video. For example, let’s take the series “Vikings.” Will we take less money 10 years from now on our linear platform? Probably not. It just won’t grow tremendously. But, we will also be taking in a lot of money from our online and mobile activations of “Vikings.”

Rather than thinking of TV as a narrow box, it’s now a whole collection of the ability to display video. The aggregate now is much more powerful. And the aggregate in coming years is going to be much more powerful than it is now.

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