CNN’s Robin Garfield: “Though Viewing Platforms Have Expanded, Watching Traditional Television ‘Has Never Been Stronger’”

What: CNN’s SVP of Research and Scheduling Robin Garfield tells Portada how the ubiquitous news broadcaster is navigating the complex landscape of digital, mobile, OOH and OTT television viewing habits along with the greatly expanded opportunities they present for brands to communicate with their markets.
Why it matters: In spite of predictions that the small screen would go the way of the dinosaur, quite the opposite is occurring as multiple platforms and viewing opportunities inside and outside the home bring viewers closer to CNN in their living rooms, including millennials, making it an even stronger medium for advertising.

Like the famous newspaper headline proclaiming “Dewey Beats Truman,” predictions of the demise of the traditional home television haven’t proven to be true. In fact, in a recent interview with Portada, CNN’s Senior Vice President of Research and Scheduling Robin Garfield describes a much different landscape where brand marketers have new and expanding opportunities to communicate with their markets via advertising on CNN.

Some of Garfield’s top insights include:

  • While viewers are using more and more platforms to view CNN, “traditional TV viewing has never been stronger.”
  • CNN is the “youngest” news brand on TV and mobile phones are a gateway for Millennials to both discover and become loyal CNN viewers.
  • More viewers prefer to watch CNN live when viewing CNN on over-the-top (OTT) media
  • CNN’s online shopping guide CNN Underscored has proven very popular with consumers.

Measuring Out-of-Home Viewing

CNN was an early adopter of OOH (out-of-home) metrics to understand how CNN content is consumed in airports, bars, doctors’ offices and other public venues. “It’s been our mission to be able to just holistically tell a story about where people are encountering CNN and how they are consuming us in those places.” Garfield told Portada.

Each viewing experience of CNN away from home is “unique,” and the broadcaster, using its measurement data and understanding of each, works to help advertisers to tailor their messaging for maximum impact. “What is important to us when working with advertisers is to understand what the advertiser is trying to accomplish and then help them understand what the different platforms are.”

CNN’s Robin Garfield will participate at #PortadaNY on April 3 where she will be a speaker on the panel “How data and content continue to fuel the evolving world of advertising.

CNN doesn’t let so-called “analysis paralysis” get in the way. “It is easy to get the data wrong.  We still need to rely on our expertise. But it’s vital that researchers focus on the research goals and the best tools for the job rather than chasing available data.”

Live TV Most Popular OTT Choice

Over the top (OTT) viewing opportunities, including services like Apple TV, are another very important venue for CNN consumers, and the single most popular CNN OTT content is Live TV. “We’re on all of the platforms and on each of the OTT media we have our live TV feed, on-demand content, (original series, big events) video on demand, and clips. But live TV is really important,” Garfield told Portada.

“I don’t want to overstate the difference between the OTT opportunities because they are all different, but I think more than anything else they are all growing and evolving and creating new capabilities for advertisers with targeting that makes them very exciting.”

Mobile a CNN Gateway for Millennials

Millennials “skew” to watching CNN on mobile platforms like smart phones, and the mobile phone has proven to be a gateway for acquiring their loyalty which includes, watching CNN at home on a traditional television.

Garfield said she recently spoke with a young 19-year-old woman who started watching CNN on her mobile phone, and has become a big fan of CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront. “The gateway platform was the phone but she catches up at the end of the day,” on her television at home, Garfield said explaining the woman’s CNN consumption pattern.

Importance of CNN’s Multi-cultural Audience

 A proposal to put a citizenship question on the US census is being watched closely by CNN, according to Garfield. “From a research perspective, it is very important that the US Census methodology does not change in a way that discourages participation. A variety of research sources and methods rely on it to establish the total, available universe.