Mediacom’s Christine Fuller on What’s Working on TV This Year

As the media industry evolved from a department within the full service ad agencies to a grown up, standalone business, Christine Fuller has played a key role in the evolution of media for over two decades. Today she leads investment strategy for Mediacom, the GroupM agency, and also serves on the Mediacom Executive Committee.

The Makegood: Christine you started your career at historic N.W. Ayer,  the very first ad agency in the United States. What was that experience like?

CF: I started at NW Ayer in 1989 and it was the time of the iconic full service agencies.  However, the media departments received very little focus and acknowledgment.  Our senior leadership had the vision for a stand alone media company. In 1994 The Media Edge was created – that was an exciting time – taking media out of the full service agency and starting off on our own. A bit like setting off in a life raft. It was a close group of fantastic people dedicated to elevating media. In 1996 Y&R acquired The Media Edge  and we merged with Y&R Media in 1997 – now we are growing. We merged with CIA in 2000 to become  The MediaEdge:cia. MEC as it is today has been a journey from NW Ayer through many iterations over the years. I am very fortunate and proud to have been a part of that journey with an exceptional team of  professionals and Clients.

The Makegood: You recently moved from MEC to Mediacom. Can you describe a bit about your new role and responsibilities?

CF: I left MEC where I spent 22 years, most recently managing Investments for AT&T. I came to Mediacom as the “new girl,” prepared to navigate my way through a new agency and  new people.  That did not last long. I was fully engaged week one.  Mediacom has been extremely enthusiastic and supportive.  I am managing the Mediacom Investment Department – we have a great roster of clients, talent across all the levels that have produced excellent work on behalf of our clients.  I am also part of the Mediacom Executive Committee – a collaborative, highly motivated group – and I am very excited by the potential. This “new girl” does not feel like one any more.  I am thrilled to be a part of Mediacom and see enormous opportunities.     

The Makegood: Next year there is a presidential election and a summer Olympics. Often this means that spending in television is up. At the same time there is uncertainty in the global and U.S. economy. How is all of this impacting television marketplace going into 2012?

CF: TV advertising is the biggest expenditure in political campaigns. 60% of this spending is in Local Broadcast TV. 2010 political media spending was record breaking – we anticipate 2012 political spending to exceed 2010 levels. You need to understand the primary and election windows by state and market and develop tactics to manage client needs within these windows.

The Summer Olympics in 2012 does not automatically mean that TV spending will be up. 85% of the Olympics expenditure is funded through advertisers media plan/budget, not a separate Olympics budget.

The uncertainty in the economy is one factor in determining the 2012 total marketplace revenue. We are forecasting flat to low single digit growth for 2012. It is still early and that can change based on numerous factors, which we are monitoring.

The Makegood: Much of the hype going into this TV season was around period dramas like Playboy Club and Pan Am. The former has already been cancelled and the latter is struggling. What is working this year?

Comedy is back on top – Comedy claimed six of the top ten primetime programs last week and the #1 new show 2 Broke Girls. Ashton Kutcher brought new viewers to Two and a Half Men – reinvigorating the whole CBS Monday comedy block. With multiple Emmy wins Modern Family ratings have grown and they own Wednesday night, helping ABC launch Suburgatory and Revenge (both picked up for the entire season).

Ratings are up again this year for the FOX National game and NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Football represents five of the top shows against total viewers and enters the top five among female demos as well

At one time the cable networks would wait until the summer to unveil their new product, but now they air directly against the broadcast networks top shows. Over 7 million people watched the season two premiere of AMC’s Walking Dead; MTV’s Jersey Shore (from Italy) hit ratings records for the network; FX debuted their fearfest drama American Horror Story and enjoyed their 2nd highest rated telecast against P18-49 in the network’s history.

With DVR penetration now above 40%, the DVR adds millions of additional viewers to top series on a time-shifted basis to combat ultra competitive time periods. Shows like Survivor, Vampire Diaries, and Up All Night airing opposite The X-Factor, receive a boost from DVR Playback of 40-50% among P18-49 each week.

The Makegood: Thanks, Christine!