Media: Strategy Analysis - Paramount re-engages with viewers

Brand: Paramount Comedy
Client: Chris Hancox, director of marketing and creative services
Brief: Reassert Paramount Comedy against digital terrestrial competitors
Target audience: Young affluent viewers
Budget: Undisclosed

AGENCY
Media: Equinox

STRATEGY

Ever since its launch late in 1996, Paramount Comedy has played an essential part in the pay-TV spectrum. Long-running US sitcom favourites such as Frasier, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond and Cheers were staple viewing for millions of people.

However, despite the addition of Paramount 2 late in 2003, the channel had become far too reliant on old favourites to deliver audiences. Viewers were becoming overexposed to these shows. The increased competition from the likes of ITV2, ITV3 and E4 was beginning to hurt. The channel needed to reassert itself or risk being marginalised by its digital terrestrial competitors.

Paramount Comedy's vision was to be the home of comedy in the UK. For this to happen, the channel needed to rediscover its "quirkiness" and re-engage viewers by opening up new forms of communication.

EXECUTION

The campaign built on a new commercial strategy and rebranding of the channel.

Any programme bought or made had to contain at least one of the following ingredients: a commitment to stand-up comedy, a high-profile star, a known brand or a quirkiness which added to brand positioning. In addition, a strategic partnership with five was struck, which resulted in new shows such as Suburban Shootout. At the same time, a brand new logo was created to inspire brand campaigns, promos and an identity that made the channel greater than the sum of its parts.

- TV: More than 100 short-form content clips were broadcast around programming in order to strengthen audience retention between shows and to reinforce brand values. These featured comedians such as Lee Evans and Al Murray.

- PR: The channel staged high-profile events such as the Brighton Comedy Festival, Edinburgh & Beyond, Lee Evans Live and the Comedy on Tap Student Tour, attracting 100,000 attendees. These were integrated into Paramount Comedy's on-air programme strategy.

- Online: Viewers were invited to submit short-form content to the website, the best of which was broadcast in a strand called "shortcuts". This reaffirmed Paramount Comedy's commitment to nurturing comedy talent, as did the launch of a new division in Paramount aimed at discovering tomorrow's Peter Kays and Jack Dees. It has toured the UK, encouraging new talent to try their luck at a series of events called "So You Think You're Funny?".

- Mobile: Paramount Comedy gained carriage on all 3G networks and is now placed in the top ten channels for downloads.

RESULTS

Impacts have increased by 55 per cent. Paramount Comedy is now younger (46 per cent 16-34 v m/c average of 33 per cent) and more affluent (53 per cent ABC1 v m/c average of 44 per cent).

Paramount Comedy's new strategy has also paid dividends commercially. There has been a noticeable increase in advertising revenue by 25 per cent, and revenue in the non-spot arena has increased by an enormous 223 per cent.

These increases can be largely attributed to Paramount Comedy's sales house - Viacom Brand Solutions - successfully attracting partnerships with the likes of UIP, Orange and the Las Vegas Tourist Board.

THE VERDICT - Sue Unerman chief strategy officer, MediaCom

When Campaign told me what would be the subject of this week's review, I wasn't expecting to be impressed. And that's not just because I'm the "Shania Twain of media", it's because it is becoming really hard to market channel brands on small budgets in this new world of TV.

When I first went multichannel, Paramount Comedy was important to me. I was on maternity leave and nursing a new baby at odd times of the day and night, so multichannel TV really comes into its own in that context. More or less overnight, you go from being a "Stylish Singleton" who's too busy to watch TV, to being a "Busy Mum" who's too tired to do anything else.

However, from being one of my list of seven or eight shortlisted channels, Paramount rarely features anymore. And it's not because there aren't still great shows on it. I think it's all the fault of Sky +. In my new world of TV, the first fallback channel for me is the Sky + planner - there's usually a backlog of programmes I really wanted to watch and haven't yet got round to.

All of this questions the role that channels will have in the future. However, the results of this brand reinforcement strategy are very compelling and offer great evidence that marketing a channel as a destination point for an audience (as opposed to programme-by-programme marketing) can still work really well.

Judging by the results, this is a very clever, very integrated strategy. The team have refreshed the branding and the programme mix and marketed the channel as a destination point for comedy. The communications strategy acknowledges a co-ownership of the channel with core consumers with live events and participation by the viewers.

Comedy might naturally lend itself to clever ways of engaging young upmarket audiences, but the team deserve credit for following through from the changes in the channel itself to experimenting with media outside of TV and being focused on the brand. Shifting audiences upwards as Paramount Comedy has done is not an easy task, as we can see from other small budget niche channels who have not had the success this strategy has had. Overall, this is a great example of well-integrated and fully thought-through work - and I am impressed.

Score: 5 out of 5.

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