TELEVISION WATCH

According to recent research, the `new’, specialist satellite channels are attracting highly definable, hence highly targetable, niche audiences

SBHD: According to recent research, the `new’, specialist satellite channels are attracting highly definable, hence highly targetable, niche audiences

The basic facts about satellite and cable TV are well known. About 4 million homes have access to multi-channel entertainment, of which 25 per cent are connected via cable. Depending on weekly programming, satellite and cable channels take between 30 and 40 per cent of total viewing in these homes. As a general rule, multi-channel homes are a little more upmarket and younger than existing terrestrial homes and definitely have a larger than average proportion of children present.

There is no doubt that the fragmented nature of viewing in satellite and cable homes makes it very tempting to lump them all together. The audience sizes for some channels, as measured by BARB, does little to encourage further analysis.

However, there are details about individual channels which suggest satellite and cable is not one amorphous mass and needs a more detailed analysis.

It seems clear from a simple demographic profile analysis of the individual channels that some distinct audience biases are occurring among these “new” channels. Profiles which have more in common with the press than they do with traditional broadcast television.

Taking January 1995 as our analysis period, the data contained in the graph makes interesting reading.

It is worth remembering that both ITV and Channel 4 have audience profiles skewed towards the mass markets. (Although individual programmes and dayparts can change their profiles significantly.)

The audience profiles of some satellite and cable channels are much more extreme. We find them interesting mainly because of the extent to which some channels have “bent” the audience profile more than we have seen within channel data before.

This situation is highlighted by UK Living with a predictably high female (70 per cent) bias and Discovery’s almost equal skew towards men (60 per cent).

An age and class analysis produces one or two eye-openers again because of the extent of bias that occurs. Bravo’s 70 per cent 35-plus audience, for example, lives up to its image of offering nostalgic TV to “the nostalgic”.

Country Music Television (CMT) has cornered the 45 to 54s with an upmarket bias, while VH1, which is 70 per cent over-25, has fulfilled its promise to provide a music service for those of us that have outgrown MTV.

Interestingly, Eurosport’s mixture of tennis, golf, skiing and motorsport has produced an upmarket bias closer to those who play than those who watch.

It is clear from this data that the extension of the UK’s TV menu is producing an array of channels not seen before, with the audiences to match.

Niche channel TV does appear to have taken hold and the opportunities should be clear to everyone. However, this data confirms the danger involved in treating all satellite and cable channels as one entity.

Doug Read is director of re-search at Mediacom

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