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Lansing: Collaboration Is in CTAM’s Future Plans

10/12/2013 6:51 AM

CTAM’s incoming CEO, John Lansing, said he’s optimistic that cable distributors and content providers will continue to work together with the common goal of enhancing their “incredibly sturdy and lucrative” business model.

To that end, experts from the marketing organization’s member companies are figuring out best practices for how authenticated “TV Everywhere” services are branded and experienced and how to get consumers to use them, the former Scripps Networks executive, who officially starts at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing on Nov. 4, told me this week.

Char Beales and Gail Sermersheim. Photo by Mark ReinertsonCTAM is pivoting toward what Beales termed a business-focused approach, a shift that included killing its annual Summit after 37 years in 2012. The research-focused Insights conference also was abandoned in favor of some shorter, regional gatherings.

CTAM also operates programs including the Cable Movers subscriber-acquisition business, an educational foundation and the twice-yearly TV critics’ tour. The organization embraces cable distributors, programmers and service providers and excludes satellite-TV or phone-company-owned video providers. Some 87 companies are dues-paying members.

Lansing said tensions between programmers and distributors are real and predictable between suppliers and price-sensitive distributors.

“The reality is, having been through dozens of renewals over the last several years, the vast majority of the renewals between programmers and distributors ultimately go smoothly,” the former Scripps operating executive said.

Programmers and distributors both know they have a good thing going and they should continue to make it better, he said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many people in the cable industry that wouldn’t say that the cable model is the sturdiest and most potentially lucrative model there is. There’s nothing that I’ve seen on over the top that even comes close to matching cable.”

The biggest collective opportunity now is improving, expanding and making consumers aware of the online viewing enhancements that come with their cable subscriptions, Lansing said.

CTAM has quietly put together three working groups, with experts from member companies, to work on the user experience; the category name (which to now has loosely been “TV Everywhere”); and the consumer messaging, vice president of communications Anne Cowan said. The groups are to deliver recommendations to CTAM’s board by mid-December, she said.

“We’re moving very quickly and aggressively to be ready for these tentpole events that will drive awareness in 2014, particularly the sporting events,” Cowan said, referring to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March and the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

CTAM envisions a two-year campaign using social media and news coverage, then moving to contributed ads and possibly paid media, she said.

“When people experience TV everywhere, they really are just enthralled by it,” Lansing said. “Our challenge is just unifying the industry around the product, the messaging around the product and raising awareness to take advantage of the positive attributes that consumers already are taking from it.”

Lansing, who has been the chairman of CTAM's Educational Foundation, was full of praise for Beales and the work she and her ongoing team have done to steer the organization into its newly focused role.

On Monday, two days before Lansing’s appointment was released, he was one of about 100 people who attended a testimonial dinner for Beales in New York.

In remarks there, Beales, who signed on as CTAM president in 1992, at a time when the organization was nearly bankrupt, said “the reports of CTAM’s imminent demise are frequent. Probably about as frequent as the press writes about cable’s imminent demise.”

She recalled a trip to a cable conference in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 1994, with Ajit Dalvi, the longtime Cox cable marketer. Dalvi told her she should be looking for another job the next year, Beales recalled, because cable had scale and marketing power and no longer needed help from a marketing trade group.

“Well, Ajit was wrong and I have told him that many times,” she said. “There are so many cases even today where there is more power from working together than any company can get on their own. And because of that I believe there is a bright future for CTAM going forward.”

The "CTAM Classic TAMERs" dinner this past Monday was a gathering of old friends, many of them former key backers and volunteers at the organization. A frequent refrain was "I haven't seen some of these people in 20 years." Warm toasts were shared by the likes of Showtime Networks' Matt Blank (who was CTAM chair when Beales was hired), AMC Networks' Josh Sapan and ION Media Networks' Doug Holloway. CTAM chairman David Juliano and Gail Sermersheim (pictured above with Beales in a photo taken by Mark Reinertson), a CTAM founder, were smooth emcees.

It was announced that The Char Beales Fund had been established at the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs. That is her alma mater and she's been actively involved with the school for several years. "In lieu of retirement gifts, donations honoring Char's commitment to the success of the cable industry are welcome." Here is the link to the fund:http://go.gwu.edu/charbealesfund.

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