Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Constitutional Value

It being the day after Super Tuesday, I did a rare thing, which is to tune into CNN. Their coverage of American affairs overseas is, naturally, unrivalled. But it did take me back to an earlier point in my career when a good friend was working in the ad sales team at CNN.

According to her, it took CNN around six years to effectively sell any advertising. Today, even as a roaring success, it is still unable to report viewing figures which even blip on surveys. The reality is that the only people who watch CNN are overseas or travelling Americans. And the odd viewer in an Azerbajani hotel room for whom it is the only English language channel.

But, the success of the channel is down to the fact that it delivers a valuable audience, who are difficult to reach since they spend most of their time on places, in taxis, in meeting rooms and then back into their hotels rooms - when they're not peering avidly at their Blackberries.

I've always pointed to CNN as the best example of how a narrowcast audience can be monetised, but the fact is they succeeded not because of their audience or their content; they succeeded because they had distribution, a valuable demographic and, above all, because they had great salespeople.

If you cannot sell ads and ponsorship packages, you have little chance of success with an Internet TV channel.

The irony is, of course, that the internet allows business travellers to tune into pretty much any channel now, geo-restrictions allowing, threatening the hard earned pre-eminence of CNN amongst its key audience.

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