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Mixed Signals

CTAM 2013: Cable's Top 3 Marketing Initiatives

9/05/2013 7:56 PM

 

Among the 18 official U.S. cable industry trade groups , the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing trade group, AKA CTAM, is one I hold most dear to my heart.

That is, in part, because, for a long time now, it has had a great person at the helm, one who makes people around her want to do business with both her and her organization. Too bad that lady, Char Beales, is retiring from CTAM by year’s end.

Yet, before she exits that CTAM door, The Carmel Group was fortunate enough to have tracked her down in her National Harbor, MD-based office, for about 30 minutes earlier this month, to focus on some of CTAM’s latest initiatives. Each takes CTAM closer toward its core goal, i.e., to better market and promote the greater U.S. cable industry, toward the overall goal of enhancing the U.S. cable industry (especially relative to its competitors, i.e., satellite and telco-delivered video services, as well as the burgeoning Over-the-Top, online, broadband, streaming video industry).  

Also, because I am always so interested in how the telecom and especially the broadcast and pay TV industries engage in their “Mixed Signals,” I like to frequently question what one sector of these distributors and content providers does that might be combined with another, or that another might emulate.

Cable Subs Who Move

One of the recent top three initiatives is CTAM’s “Cable Mover” program, which zeros in like never before on cable subscribers who are terminating their service because they are changing homes. This is a critical segment of any pay TV population, because so many people actually move annually. Indeed, U.S. Census data suggests that as many as 45 million-50 million Americans – or around 14%-15% -- move every year.

If one cable operator can help another to “land” that would-be “new” subscriber as he/she moves from one location to another, then not only does the greater cable industry have the opportunity to “keep” that subscriber, but the competition – again, the satellite, telco, and  OTT video distributors -- is kept from “getting” that subscriber. 

CTAM states that it has worked as the “middle man” to deliver 1.8 million qualified “moving” leads to the various MSOs with which it is involved, and to also give the cable industry some competitive stance, with a “national footprint” nearly equivalent to each of the satellite operators, Dish Network and DirecTV. Importantly, as well, when CTAM provides leads, those are often for not only video/TV services, but also for other parts of the typical cable TV bundle, i.e., broadband and voice services.

I’m also pretty sure that no such similar intra-industry company-to-company “Mover” program exists among the satellite, telco, and OTT video industries, 

TV Critics’ Tour

 A second initiative that has proven effective has been to partner with the Television Critics Association to bring the nation’s top TV writers together in one event, and efficiently showcase cable’s new original shows, which CTAM does biannually, in January and July. In detail, the event typically gathers 280 national and local TV writers and showcases 20 cable networks.

Presentations by the cable networks are made to the assembled media, featuring interviews with talent and top network executives, many of which are published immediately, and many of which are saved to inject into later articles timed for when the shows air later in the year.   

Due to limited original content offerings by the satellite and telco and OTT distributors, the opportunity to offer competitive “Critics’ Tours” also appears also pretty limited (perhaps with the exception of a single company like DirecTV doing a “Critics’ Tour” built around a unique, single property, like “NFL Sunday Ticket”).   

Cable’s Business Services

Interestingly, members of the CTAM constituency include not only the standard cable distributors and content suppliers, but also other less recognized participants, such as engineers and cable hardware suppliers. And constituents of the cable industry’s business community services comprise scores of very different industries, across the board.   

Business clients focused by cable operators typically include – and are focused on -- small and medium-sized businesses, typically numbering less than 500 employees. Both categories include an important sector, that of educational institutions and healthcare facilities (especially doctor’s offices and hospitals).    

Indeed, as a specific recent example of CTAM’s and the cable industry’s business focus, and as an example of its size and overall importance, from an Aug. 22, press release by Cox Business Services, comes an update on what Cox titles “Cox Business VP Shares Company’s Plans For the Cloud.”

Therein, marketing VP Ken Kraft describes a new partnership with collocation provider ViaWest, and positions, “We’re very focused on building a cloud portfolio. We see this as a pretty big market. It’s worth about $1.9 billion in the Cox footprint alone. Cox pairs the speed and reliability of its own fiber with ViaWest’s superior data center and collocation facilities.”

Initially the two companies will focus on the Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Southern California markets. Cox Business previously announced two other cloud services – including an internally developed IP Centrex offering and a cloud-based merchant and card processing service, called PayLeap, that is also made available through a partnership.

Cox Business explains that it “…targets small and medium-size business customers, including retailers based in strip malls and other locations reached by Cox’s network infrastructure because of its cable TV heritage, but which may not be targeted by network operators focused primarily on larger businesses.”

Summarizing

What I often think about when I write a “Mixed Signals” piece about different industry sectors, e.g., cable vs. satellite vs. telco vs. Over-The-Top (OTT)/online/broadband/streaming video, is 1) could they combine in a true “Mixed Signals” fashion, and/or 2) more likely still today, how would a competitor do the same thing?

In the case of the telcos, I understand that with about 8 million total video subs, mostly through Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse, the sector does offer a similar “Mover” program. But because of the much smaller system footprint nationally, the telcos’ is a much more limited program, as would be true of a “Critics” program, and, for what on a limited basis could be a competitive telco “Business” program.

In the case of the satellite providers, Dish and DirecTV, however, not a single one of these programs managed by CTAM and the cable industry appears replicable by the combination of the separate DBS companies. That is mostly due to the different technologies and inherent rivalries. It also provides some insight into why a guy like Dish chairman Charlie Ergen is so eager to get into a bigger service offering that provides a voice-video-broadband bundle, ideally, nationwide.

Meanwhile, there is one more reason why CTAM is quite dear to my heart: the former CTAM Rocky Mountain Chapter helped manage and direct a research and debate competition in 2010, which involved 14 business MBA grad school teams of three students each, from the University of Denver Daniels School. My sons, Willy Schaeffler, and Cory Schaeffler, were 2/3 of a team that ended up in the final competition. That, actually, to my way of thinking, was some of the more effective marketing CTAM has ever supported, because it helped get two more great young people into a great industry!

P.S. Thanks again, Char.

Jimmy Schaeffler is a telecom author and chairman and CSO of the Carmel-by-the-Sea-based streaming, broadcast and pay TV/video consultancy, The Carmel Group (www.carmelgroup.com).

 

September