Narrowcasting is understood as the dissemination of information to a narrow audience, not the general public. [1] Narrowcasting involves aiming media messages at specific segments of the public defined by values, preferences, or demographic attributes. Narrowcasting was introduced to broadcast to specific audiences, which in turn would erode mass audience for broadcast network television, so it is based on the idea that mass audiences do not exist. [2] Narrowcasting is also a catchall term used for communications such as radio or television signals that are limited to subscription customers or otherwise prohibited from being broadcast. The terms multicast and narrowcast are often used interchangably, although narrowcast usually refers to the business model whereas multicast refers to the actual technology used to transmit the data.

One of the common examples of narrowcasting is cable television, and a more uncommon medium would be satellite radio. Broadcast television is an example of a broadcast model in which signals are transmitted everywhere and anyone with an antenna can receive them. This is different from cable television which is narrowcasted only to customers who pay for the service. Further, the number of stations on cable television means that each generally aims at a specific audience. Original television networks CBS, NBC and ABC sought to appeal to as many people as possible by varied broadcast programming throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The original networks maintained their stronghold until competition emerged from the additions of many independent stations that reached out to certain audiences. Now the newer cable television networks specialize in narrowcasting. MTV was the original music-only channel, while CNN produces news only. Home and Garden, the History Channel, ESPN, and C-Span are all prime examples of fundamental shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting in cable network television. [3] Other cable channels feature programming such as shopping, comedy, science-fiction, or programs aimed at specific ethnic or gender groups highly prized by specific advertisers. For the most part, the major networks continue to gear their programming to the general mass audience. But increasingly, they, too, are engaged in forms of narrowcasting by segmenting programs that appeal to specific groups into adjacent time slots. A network, for example, might target young viewers by programming back-to-back futuristic space programs on one night, while on a different night, feature an ensemble of ethnic-oriented programs.

Satellite radio uses narrowcasting. There are many channels each airing a specific genre of music or entertainment to specific audiences. For those interested in rock music, one of the main rock stations is called Octane, and for those interested in news, there is Fox News Channel, or CNN news as well as other channels for news around the world. The biggest difference between satellite radio and regular radio is the absence of commercials. Satellite radio is aired with zero commercials, which means users have the pleasure of enjoying their programs uninterruptedly. Regular radio has frequent commercial breaks. All of satellite radio’s income is from subscriptions to the service and there are hundreds of channels being offered with a variety of programming by the major players in the industry. You can expect to listen to any kind of music without exception on satellite radio with a choice to fit any taste. There are channels exclusively for certain music groups and music genres. With broadcast radio, the income is from advertising while the service is free to its listeners. [4]

Marketers are constantly seeking innovative ways to capture the attention of consumers already on sensory overload. Narrowcasting is an alternative marketing and advertising medium that offers marketers the opportunity to connect with consumers in the right place, at the right time, with the right message. Mediums for narrowcasting in digital signage include: the Web, kiosks, in-store TV networks, mobile phones, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, etc. The narrowcasting strategy allows the networks to reach the overall mass audience cumulatively rather than simultaneously. [5] There are many benefits to using narrowcasting. One of the most important benefits is the ability to give viewers what they want. Narrowcasting helps advertising alot because of the ability to advertise a product to the specific target audience, and the customer is more likely to consider a purchase. Marketing experts are often interested in narrowcast media, since access to such content implies exposure to a specific and clearly defined prospective consumer audience.


2. Straubhaar, Joseph. Media Now - Understanding Media, Culture, and Technology. 6th. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2009. Print.