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Upfront and Personal: GSN pushing interactive options, 'premium environment'

As GSN (US) executives embark on meetings with account groups at advertising agencies to push their upcoming programming slate, they are touting new interactive initiatives and using data to drive home their sales pitch.

GSN is teaming with Megaphone TV on new multiplayer interactive applications. The partnership will enable quiz games synced to what's on the network's air and viewers' mobile phones, said John Zaccario, executive vice president of advertising sales, during a recent interview. GSN's interactive game plan calls for it to start serving up prompts during network promos, with any eye toward pushing watchers to their mobile devices, where they will access a URL and answer a series of poll questions about pop culture and the day's headlines.

Come summer, Zaccario expects GSN to employ the technology within its own programming. Advertisers will have branding opportunities against the quizzes. At some point, GSN plans to allow advertisers to deploy Megaphone's technology in their own ads. The network believes it has learned from past efforts that attempted to tie the questions to what was transpiring on-air.

"We tried to sync the questions or the challenges to what the contestant was getting on television. It's very difficult to know what the timing of the answers will be and that made for some frustrating experiences for viewers," he said. "This time when we go in-show, we'll push questions that are related to, but not in the show itself."

GSN fans will also be able to participate in contests and sweepstakes on the network's recently relaunched website.

Zaccario said GSN's aggregated numbers from 2012 through 2016 show that the network was up 54% among adults 25 to 54 (versus 31% for all of ad-supported cable) in prime-time length of tune and 60% with the 18-to-49 set (compared with 33% for ad-supported cable). As to frequency of tune, GSN was up 1% among adults 25 to 54, while ad-supported was down by a third over the past five years.

SNL Image
Fresh episodes of 'Divided' will air on GSN this summer.
Source: GSN

Backed by data from Nielsen Holdings' Nielsen Catalina Solutions, GSN's pitch will position its schedule as a "premium environment" for adults 25 to 54 when it comes to average spending per consumer in such categories as department stores, brick and mortar retail outlets, fast food, mass merchandise, and wireless.

"Most marketers over the past 50 years have bought ads using assumptions about demos. Today, there is less guessing," Zaccario said. "There is hard data showing how viewers of particular programmers are buying goods and services at higher or lower rates. We want to work together with our partners to find the right dayparts and programs to drive clients' sales."

Zaccario believes the data will help it write more business with some of GSN's "emergent categories": casual dining, family dining and fast-foot companies.

On the programming side, GSN is ramping up its original slate. Premiering in June, "Emogenius" will put contestants emoji skills to the test. After launching in January, GSN has ordered a second run of "Divided," which links four strangers who must reach consensus answers quickly against the backdrop of earning money from a decreasing prize pool.

New episodes of visual brain teaser show "Idiotest," now in its fourth campaign, will also air during the warm weather months, as will the sophomore run of a revamped "Winsanity," hosted by Donald Faison ("Scrubs").

GSN has also made a pair of off-networks licensing deals, picking up the library of "Cash Cab," the long-running series on Discovery Channel (US), which is preparing a new celebrity-driven version of the taxi quiz show, and NBC (US)'s "Hollywood Game Night."