At launch, Nuts TV was lauded as an ambitious attempt to capture a hard to-reach young male audience using the considerable brand power of IPC Ignite’s Nuts magazine. Yet, just over a year later, the channel is being axed amid claims it was failing to deliver the numbers against an increasingly volatile advertising backdrop.
Nuts TV, which was developed by Turner Broadcasting System under licence from sister company IPC, launched in September last year and will cease broadcast at the end of this year. Its Freeview slot will be taken by a simulcast of Turner’s CNN International news channel, which hopes to benefit from a growing interest in global news and the early months of a new US presidency.
Executives at both IPC and Turner stress that the “mutual” decision was taken for “purely commercial” reasons and that, despite a low-key start, Nuts TV’s performance was improving and the channel brand gaining traction. By September it was reaching about 2.5million adults a month.
TBS general manager Dee Forbes says: “We have to be pragmatic with these things. With not knowing what’s around the corner we [TBS and IPC] must play to our strengths.”
Others suggest the tie-up was a stretch too far for the magazine which, with an Audit Bureau of Circulations figure of 250,061 for the six months to June, dwarfs its rivals. Although circulation dropped 9.8% year on year in a struggling sector, the title continues to gain market share.
IPC Ignite managing director Eric Fuller says: “They [Turner] built a good channel and, though it drew credible audiences, in the end the revenues they were able to generate weren’t enough to cover the costs of running the channel. We were delighted to take part in this because it fits with our strategy. But this particular brand extension hasn’t been able to deliver in the long term.” He adds this will not affect Nuts’ other publishing platforms, including a broadband-only Nuts TV.
A ‘flawed’ channel
One industry executive says Turner wanted a men’s lifestyle channel and thought the Nuts brand would ensure success. However, he says its launch was flawed from the beginning and just seven months in had to “radically” change its model.
It was initially a live, studio-based participation model, reliant on audience participation and premium-rate phone line competitions, but the model was dropped following the industry wide scandal surrounding phone-in competitions that also saw ITV’s Play axed, leading to an April relaunch and a more traditional linear schedule.
Another points to a lack of visible marketing or “buzz” around the channel, suggesting that supposedly PR generating exclusives such as a Ricky Hatton talk show were largely ignored by print and online titles “keen to avoid fueling the Nuts brand”.
PHD broadcast director Adam Turner agrees that a lack of visibility hindered the channel. “It wasn’t particularly high on anyone’s radar. The money follows viewing and the viewing never delivered,” he says. This, despite a brand he believes could have delivered that audience.
Meanwhile, Universal McCann broadcast director Richard Oliver says that while a Freeview slot can be seen as an indication of instant success, the reality is that those Freeview channels popular with audiences are those aligned to other channels, particularly terrestrial brands. “Nuts didn’t have a natural home in that territory,” he says.
“There was a time when the industry was so caught up in digital expansion, platform growth and media fragmentation that it looked as if it was going to continue exponentially.” But there are only so many channels that the market can sustain, he adds.
That the TV plug is being pulled on Nuts, the biggest brand in men’s media, is likely to signal a more prudent approach to brand extensions across the industry.