Like a stealth bomber, Channel One Network has locked onto its teen target audience, and with little notice from the adult world. Weekdays during the school year, it delivers its 12-minute payload of news to 8.2 million teens in 12,000 middle and high schools or 40 percent of teens in the U.S.
Yet the paradox is that even though it reaches a concentrated, Super Bowl-sized audience daily, Channel One, because it is only offered in schools, remains invisible to many advertisers.
Since its acquisition by K-III Communications in 1994 from founder Chris Whittle, Channel One has made aggressive strides in developing marketing and promotional partners. The company provides member schools with $25,000 in television equipment in exchange for airing its daily newscasts that include two minutes of commercials from such advertisers as Reebok, Subway and Gatorade.
The Channel One brand reflects the desire to talk to teens in a relevant and intelligent manner. The newscast, staffed by a spirited crew of young reporters, provides in-depth stories on national and international news, as well as issues that directly influence teens.
‘Ideally, any time a teenager interacts with a Channel One brand, the take-away will be the same: knowledge is a cool thing, and it’s really hip to be smart,’ says Heidi Diamond, executive vice president, marketing and promotions for Channel One.
The network works with teens on a daily basis to stay abreast of their tastes. On the programming side, teens provide feedback after each newscast on everything from content to graphics. On the marketing side, Diamond meets with teens on a daily basis to keep a pulse of attitudes and trends.
What she is hearing is that they do not want to be stereotyped. ‘Teenagers are particularly fixated on the point that they are individuals and need to be talked to as individuals.’
In terms of marketing, that means creating substantive promotions that respect teens’ intelligence. Teens are savvy and sophisticated consumers seeking value. Diamond tries to impart to advertisers that incentives such as discount coupons or contests with multiple opportunities to win (as opposed to one grand-prize winner) go a long way toward laying the foundation for brand loyalty.
Channel One’s key advantage to building brand exposure is that it talks to the same audience every day in the same setting. Diamond cites that during Channel One’s first year, all 31 brands that advertised on the channel had significant increases in awareness level.
For example, Channel One partnered with Subway to offer a ‘Meal Ticket’ that provided discounts at Kansas City Subway shops. Previously, the teen market wasn’t even on Subway’s radar, but the promotion resulted in a significant increase in Subway trial, as well as increasing its ‘cool quotient’ as a brand image. Movie studios have reported upticks of opening weekend box-office grosses that can be attributed to Channel One’s ‘See It & Win’ movie promotions.
Because Channel One is only available in schools, its challenge is to make advertisers aware of a medium that is not as omnipresent as other alternatives. It plans to increase that visibility through its alliance with ABC News, and by expanding the brand through documentaries or other specials aimed at teens to be syndicated or broadcast on over-the-air stations.