Through the years, cable networks have done a masterful job of drawing niche viewers away from the broadcast networks. Whether it's Lifetime Television capturing females of all age demos, ESPN pulling in hoards of adult males, MTV tapping teens or Black Entertainment Television reaching African-Americans, cable has successfully built its business through original programming targeted to specific audiences.
Now cable is aggressively going after the crème de la crème of demographic audiences — the advertiser-desired adult 18 to 49 viewers. Once considered the province of the broadcast networks, cable networks — particularly the general-entertainment services like TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television and TNN: The National Network — are winning over those viewers with a mix of quality fast-paced, slick, informative and entertaining programming, both original and acquired.
Each year, the industry continues to build its adult 18 to 49 audience to the detriment of its broadcast competitors — so much so that the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau estimates that basic cable networks will actually surpass broadcasters this year in drawing actual viewers within the demo.
That performance is not lost on advertisers, who are taking a much closer look at cable networks when determining how best to spend its dollars to reach its desired consumer group.
Of course, cable's ultimate appeal still lies in its ability to effectively attract viewers across virtually all niche demographics — NBC recently yielded its own kids audience to cable by leasing out their respective Saturday morning lineups to Discovery Channel. But cable network executives are confident that the industry's now on the road to securing that same type of dominance in the most advertising lucrative demographic of them all.