MediaPost Media DailyNews

by Joe Mandese

One unspoken casualty of Turner Broadcasting Systems’ takeover of spunky cable network Court TV may be some important, objective research on how people use media. Debbie Reichig, senior vice president-sales strategy at Court TV and the champion of the channel’s primary research programs for advertisers and agencies, is out as result of the merger. Reichig, along with former Executive Vice President-Advertising Sales Charlie Collier, spearheaded what many agencies regard as some of the best recent research on so-called media engagement, but their departure is casting doubt in the minds of some top agency executives about whether the program – or at least its spirit – can continue under Turner’s management. “I’m led to believe that there’s a desire at Turner to keep it alive and kicking, but it can’t be the same, because there will be different people running it and different people have different perspectives,” says Lyle Schwartz, director of marketplace analysis and research at Mediaedege:cia, and a member of The ROI Council, a group of agency research executives organized by Court TV’s Reichig to help direct the channel’s research program.

Turner spokesman Sal Petruzzi says Turner plans to keep the council going, along with many of its primary research initiatives, but the council’s members says they are concerned that Turner’s research organization may have a different agenda than Court TV had.

“The interesting thing about court TV is the initiatives were global. They weren’t just about creating an advantage for Court TV. They were about understanding the value of the environment, or the value of cable, or the value of TV in general,” explains Schwartz, adding, “I think other networks could definitely do something like that. I just don’t know if other networks would have the desire to do that, because the job of their research typically is to promote their own channels.”

“I just don’t know what form it will take,” adds Shari Anne Brill, vice president-director of programming at Carat. “So much came out of the work that work that Court TV had done in tandem with agency partners that I hope it continues. It has to. Good work like that has to go on.”

Brill, however, echoes Schwartz’s concern that the council and its research initiatives may take a less neutral and less altruistic turn than it had under Court TV’s direction, which would create a void in the industry. While there are some broader industry initiatives taking place to understand the role of audience engagement on Madison Avenue, including those of the Advertising Research Foundation and its so-called MI4 task force, those efforts are largely at a higher level and are still more theoretical, than applied. Among other things, Court TV’s sales management tried wherever possible to apply what it learned in the marketplace, going so far as to cut the first TV advertising buys ever to be guaranteed on the basis of audience engagement. Court, which struck those deals with Carat, Mediaedge:cia, Starcom, Magna Global and other agencies, never disclosed the details of those deals, and indicated that they all varied based on the unique needs of the agencies and their clients, but it maintained that those deals were the wave of the future, and that other networks and shops would follow suit.


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