You might think cable television is an effective, and cheaper, alternative to buying network TV or radio; after all, you’ve heard about other businesses getting great results without spending the kind of dollars you’re considering spending on network television. It can be effective when purchased properly, but it’s a different animal than network TV. You need to know some basic information about cable television before contacting your local provider to make sure you understand whether it will work for you.
The difference between network and cable television is reach – the number of people who will see your commercial. While network TV will probably reach the most people in your area, the cable channels will not. Think about it. How many times a week do you watch a program on a cable channel (ESPN, A&E, Bravo, Lifetime, CNN, HBO, MTV are a few) versus a national network (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox)? If you’re not a heavy sports fan then you probably watch more network than cable programming.
Most cable stations have too small of audience, or reach, to even be rated by the Nielsen survey, which rates network TV stations. Cable stations might have their own ratings system in your market, but don’t be fooled, cable is not a reach medium. Their audience numbers are a fraction of what a network TV station has.
Also remember that broadcast mediums reach everyone for free. Anyone with a car radio can reach their local radio stations. Anyone with a TV antennae can reach the network TV stations. Cable reaches only those who subscribe to their service.
Cable TV can be an effective medium to target your consumer. Each channel on cable has a specific audience it targets, much like radio stations. So look for cable channels running programs that appeal to your consumers. For example, if you own a maternity clothing store, you might want to consider purchasing air time on the Lifetime channel or HGTV because they both cater to a female audience.
Cable TV is cheaper than network TV; however, you get what you pay for. Again, don’t expect to reach the number of people on cable that you will on TV and, even, radio. Each cable station is very targeted to a niche audience. Have we made this point clear enough?
Because of the usual lower cost on most cable channels versus network TV, you can purchase more spots per week, but you still need to produce a commercial, which can cost more than spot time. Cable is an effective medium to supplement your other airtime. We recommend first starting with broadcast mediums (network television and radio), and then investigate supplementing your campaign with a targeted cable schedule if you have the budget and if your business has a narrow target customer focus that matches a cable program.
Some cable companies offer advertisers specific zones in the market, so you can further target your consumer. For example, if you own a business in the San Fernando Valley and want to target people only in your area, check with your cable company to see if they have that capability. They might!
Even though there are a variety of cable stations, you will have only one sales person at your cable affiliate, so you don’t have to work with a lot of different people to place your buy. Your cable sales person will make it easy for you, giving you a variety of choices for your advertising. Make sure you are targeting the right stations for your consumers and your dayparts are narrowed effectively. Some cable companies run ROS spots only, so your commercial might air in the middle of the night. Ask your sales person for specific dayparts based on when they have the most people watching on each cable channel.
As with any other media buy, check your schedule carefully before committing to anything, and check your invoice against the original proposed schedule to ensure accuracy. The more complicated your buy, the more complicated your invoice. So if you decide to buy three to five cable channels, your invoices will be equally complex. Again, check them carefully and ask for a makegood for any spots that air out of the promised time periods.