To be sure, the automobile-focused cable outlet would likely never turn down a chance to run ads from a Coca-Cola or Samsung. But in just a few weeks, the male-skewing network will mount a 90-minute live event in Las Vegas at an annual confab held by the Speciality Equipment Market Association in hopes of hooking the next Magnaflow Exhaust or Mothers Polish, kingpins of a sort in the world of auto parts and supplies
“It’s a new source of revenue for us that, frankly, most networks can’t afford to spend time on,” said Robert Scanlon, Velocity’s general manager. He likens the early-November effort to a combination of holding a big “upfront” party and making a presentation at Comic-Con.
“It takes a lot of care and feeding to gather together 12, 15, 20, 30 advertisers who have a couple of hundred thousand dollars to spend,” said Scanlon. “It’s work to do that, but the payoff is big.” Indeed, Velocity has found it gets about one-third of its ad sales from the event (the network took in around $23 million in advertising in 2013, according to data from market-research firm SNLKagan).
In a business always looking for the next big idea, sometimes it pays to think small. As more so-called “niche” cable networks (which can include everything from Velocity to start-up El Rey) gain a foothold in the media ecosystem, there’s some question as to whether big, blue-chip advertisers can support them all. Asked about choppy ad trends at a recent investor conference, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves suggested small cable networks may soon lose money to digital video, which can also provide specific slices of consumer demographic.
The answer may be in lining up smaller marketers that would not traditionally buy a lot of TV commerials. Velocity’s strategy is similar to one employed by cable networks owned by Scripps Networks Interactive. Food Network, HGTV and DIY secure ad deals from car companies and others, but they also thrive on an ad base of home-improvement and food advertisers that find going after mass audiences on broadcast TV to be an inefficient process.
“A lot of these guys are relatively very small, very focused businesses, and their advertising and marketing budgets are not ones that would ever let them do a traditional campaign” across many big TV networks, said Scanlon. Among the potential customers at SEMA are manufacturers of brakes and replacement parts for classic cars.
To gain their attention, Velocity will trot out exclusive previews from its series and some of the best-known personalities from its programs in hopes of snaring more ad coin from the companies that make the nuts, bolts and other nitty-gritty that make automobiles run. Attendees will be able to see sneak peeks from the series “Overhaulin’” and see Chip Foose, the series’ host, as well as Mike Brewer and Edd China of “Wheeler Dealers,” and Wayne Carini of “Chasing Classic Cars, “among others. Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman of Discovery Channel’s “Fast N’ Loud” will also make an appearance.
In 2013, the network expected to nab a crowd of about 400 to 500 people. Instead, it lured a standing-room only crowd of about 1,200. This year, the network is expecting 1,700 or so. “Every year we go, our visibility is higher,” said Scanlon. “We take a big sales force.”