It’s a Dog’s Life
I am probably not the best candidate to write about the upcoming 141st Westminster Kennel Dog Show, which is not to say I have no interest or affection for dogs. Actually, I love them… and I grew up with one of the sweetest (and cutest) Yellow Labradors in the world… sweet, that is, until he picked up a bad vibe from the wrong animal (man or beast.) Then the teeth came out; the fur would stand up; and then a low, deep growl could be heard that meant one thing, and one thing only: all Hell was about to break loose!
But I was talking about the wonderful Westminster Kennel Dog Show. You see, here’s the thing…we always kept our dog fairly well groomed, up to a point, but we were hardly obsessive about it. He was a loving, loyal dog to be sure, but he was – after all – a dog, not a super model trained to strike a pose.
But, clearly, there are millions of people who feel otherwise about their canine companions, and there is a very long, rich tradition surrounding the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which began in New York City way back in 1877. If truth be told, I always assumed the name, “Westminster,” referred directly to the City of Westminster, London. Nope. The name was taken from a now-extinct famous hotel located in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan, and according to the web site, Ephemeral New York, “…the hotel bar was the meeting place for elite “sportsmen” who enjoyed boasting about their prized sporting dogs… (and eventually) the men decided to form a club, and when they couldn’t agree on a name, went with Westminster Kennel Club, after the hotel.”
Today, the Show is a 2-day affair that has been carried by the USA Network since the mid-1980s and has consistently delivered strong audience levels for the past several years, which is no mean feat given the general decline in traditional (Live) TV viewing:
Bread-Basket, Midwestern Market Appeal
Unlike the Southern market skew of so many ad-supported cable shows that we’ve reviewed in this space, the “Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show” on USA Network breaks the mold by appealing to the Midwest bread-basket of the United States. Below we’ve selected the Top 25 highest DMA ratings over the past five years (2012 – 2016.) We’ve identified the State and U.S. Census Region that each market belongs to. Eighteen out of the Top 25 markets (72%) are in either the East North Central or West North Central Regions, containing such states as Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. Not one Southern market made it into the Top 25:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Local cable advertising investments have been remarkably consistent (as have the ratings) over the past two “Westminster Kennel Club Dog Shows.” In all, well over 100 clients in 43 Viamedia markets (~60% of our national footprint) have ordered 400+ 30-second units in the annual two-day event. That comes to an annual average of nearly two spots per client. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local cable categories, the one that really stands out is “Retail & Department Stores” at 41% — which is 9-times the share level we normally see for this category company-wide. But in digging through our internal sales record, it became very obvious why this category is so high– 38 percentage points (out of 41) accrue to pet retail stores and related products. The second largest category (Automotive) at 31% is very much in line with the share levels we typically see for this category:
The 141st Westminster Kennel Dog Show
England’s Crufts Dog Show may be larger, and Philadelphia’s National Dog Show a year older… but when it comes to sheer prestige, I don’t think any show tops the Westminster Kennel Club extravaganza held annually at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Technically speaking, the show is a “conformation show” for pure breeds only. In other words, the dogs are evaluated by judges intimately familiar with specific breeds. Judges are looking for unique traits, characteristics, behaviors, etc. that conform to an “ideal standard” for that breed.
But in the end, I’m not sure all that really matters to the thousands of dog lovers who show up at Madison Square Garden to see over 2,000 champion dogs across something like 200 breeds. And what makes the event even more special is that it’s a “benched show” in which all of the pure breeds are on display (even when not competing) for fans to see and ask questions about. And for those fans unable to attend, a new cable network will be bringing the 2-day live event into their homes as Fox Sports One takes over after a 33-year run for the USA Network.
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP Media Research, Viamedia