NBC is trying to make Saturday mornings the cool place for teens to be and the hot place for advertisers to market to them.
Since it broke away from traditional children’s programming to become the only all live-action Saturday morning program block for teens, Teen NBC (TNBC) has experienced strong growth, particularly among female viewers.
The two-hour programming block consists of two episodes of Saved by the Bell: The New Class, followed by Hang Time and California Dreams.
NBC sees two major purposes for its TNBC lineup. For teens, it’s a chance to watch programming created directly for them that imparts positive values (the shows qualify under the guidelines of the FCC’s Children’s Television Act of 1990), while still being fun to watch.
‘Teens have specific needs and life issues,’ says Robin Schwartz, director, prime-time series and Saturday morning programs for NBC Entertainment. ‘The only way these shows can work is if the audience connects with them on some level. [Here] they can watch other teens and relate to their situations.’
Series writers and producers partake in seminars with psychologists, principals, teachers, researchers and teens themselves to gain a sense of teen interests and trends.
For advertisers, TNBC presents the opportunity to reach some of the highest concentrations of teen viewers of any shows on network TV. The shows air at the most advantageous time to influence teens’ buying decisions: just before they head to the mall or to the movies. In fact, NBC’s research shows that 80 percent of teen purchases are made on Saturdays.
‘If you go to an advertiser with a presentation of how wonderful your show is, you’re not bringing them any real value,’ says Jay Linden, vice president/director, daytime and late-night sales for NBC. ‘If you go to an advertiser and show them how effective your product is in reaching an audience that you can document the strength of in terms of product consumption, then you’re bringing them something of value.’
Among all Saturday morning programs, NBC holds the top four ratings spots among female teens and four of the top 10 among all teens.
Show-related licensed merchandise for TNBC programs has been effective in several product categories, especially books and board games. According to Nancy Allen, president of Marquee Images, an entertainment marketing and merchandising company that licenses TNBC-related products, the teen market is an underserved, but evolving market. ‘Kids want to be involved with the show,’ notes Allen. ‘Anything that has some ability [for teens] to identify with the characters sells really well.’
Sources agree that teens have an enormous influence on household spending, and many studies have documented that brand loyalty begins at this age. Allen believes this loyalty is established by developing products that respect teen intelligence and judgment.
‘It’s up to the advertiser to find a message that reaches teens effectively, but it’s up to us as marketers to provide an effective place to put that message,’ says Linden. ‘TNBC is a concentrated way to reach that audience heading out to the mall on Saturday afternoons.’