Digital Stations: What Are They and Why Do We Buy Them?

by Bonnie Rothenstein | April 2, 2015

The days of only having a few stations to choose from are long gone. Remember when there were only three major networks? What about when a few local stations turned themselves into a network and we welcomed FOX to the airwaves? Now, there are a ton of networks on the air and new ones keep popping up. Have you heard the Media team mention digital TV stations and found yourself wondering what we’re talking about? Here’s a quick rundown.

What are digital stations?

In 2009, the FCC required broadcasters to stop sending analog signals and switch to digital signals. One of the benefits is that it allows digital stations to send out more than one network on the same frequency. These stations are considered substations, so now you can watch programming on station 4.1, along with 4.2 and 4.3, instead of the old way where you could only watch channel 4.

Why do we like to add digital stations to your schedule?

Digital stations are a good way to add frequency to a schedule while keeping costs low. They are generally inexpensive and provide a low cost per call in any given market.

Let’s use market “X” as an example. In market X, the big broadcast stations (ABC, NBC, CBS) have a cost per call ranging from $450 to $950 and a spot to call ratio from 6.4% to 8.6%. In this same market, the digital stations (Antenna TV, Me-TV, This TV, and Cozi) have a cost per call ranging from $27 to $150 with a spot to call ratio almost identical to that of the big broadcast stations.

Since digital stations don’t have the same reach as the broadcast stations, we would never want to use digital stations exclusively in a market. But utilizing both digital and broadcast stations in a market helps build a well-rounded schedule.

The digital station landscape continues to evolve.

Over the last few months, several new digital stations have been announced. These new stations join the ranks of networks like Bounce, Antenna TV, Me-TV, This TV, and Cozi that have been on the air for several years. Here is a quick summary of each of these new stations.

  • Justice – Crime and court-focused digital station. This network will air 90 seconds of public service announcements every hour featuring a “Bad Person on the Week,” missing children report and safety tips.
  • Laff – Targets adults age 25-49 and will feature around-the-clock comedy with a mix of sitcoms and movies.
  • Grit – Targets men age 25-54. The main focus of this network will be western, war, and action movies along with some off-network syndication programming.
  • Escape – Targets women age 25-54. This network will feature movies and syndicated repeats focusing on crime dramas and mystery genres, as well as off-network reality-based re-enactment series.
  • Buzzr – Features game shows such as Family Feud, Let’s Make a Deal, and Password, to name a few.

These networks are not currently available in every market, and a few have not officially launched yet. When the time is right, the cj Media team will investigate to see if these digital stations could be the right fit for your brand.

In a desire to keep an eye on the future and to be prepared for what comes next, the Media team is continuously researching the changing landscape of the media world. To steal a tagline from my favorite ice cream company, Dippin’ Dots, we’re always hunting for “The TV of the Future.” Since the future is here and developing fast, be sure to keep an eye out for more information from the Media Buying team.