Altrio Inspires Some Starz! Jeep Gazing


It's appropriate that the latest promotional tool for Starz! — a Jeep sport-utility vehicle equipped with a plasma-screen TV — bears license plates from Missouri.

It is, after all, the "Show Me" state.

This mobile marketer is pretty hard to miss, with its roof-mounted remote control, STRZ plates and red and black décor.

The tricked-out vehicle is part of a new promotional push by the premium service, currently used by Southern California overbuilder Altrio Communications Inc. to help sell cable — especially the Starz! Super Pak — into its homes passed.

In Altrio's franchise area — the Los Angeles suburbs of Pasadena, Arcadia and Monrovia — the jeep trails the operator's door-to-door salesmen as the "closer" in the attempt to sell premium units.

"It's part of several things we're doing. The great advantage, the real magic to selling subscription video-on-demand, is viewing it," said Hope Neiman, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Altrio. The overbuilder offers SVOD capability free to customers who sign up for the Starz! premium package.

"We're running a million spots, but until they see it, it's 'I can stop it? There's no monthly fee?' But once they see it, they get it," she said.

Salespeople are able to direct prospects to the car parked in the street near their homes. The vehicle is guaranteed to draw a crowd, especially when vehicle No. 2 shows up — the ice cream truck, executives said. Viewers get a bit of a reward just for taking the time to view the demo, and the kids get something to distract them so decision-making mom and dad can devote time to the showcase.

The vehicle's back gate opens to reveal a 42-inch plasma screen TV. External speakers are deployed to give the full sonic treatment while Starz! employees demonstrate the on-screen navigation and ease of use.

The only possible downside, said Jeff Farr, Starz! wheelman and director of strategic marketing, is that the vehicle needs to find some shade to enable optimal viewing while outside.

In addition to street screenings, Starz! urges consumers to hold viewing parties. A resident who invites over neighbors for a scheduled visit with the vehicle is rewarded with one free month of Starz! Super Pak service for every subscription generated by the party. And of course, there's the free ice cream.

Other MSO clients

Altrio hasn't been the only patron for the Starz! mobile. The network has done some guerrilla marketing for the former AT&T Broadband system in Westchester, Calif., including three weekend visits to the Fox Hills Mall. That campaign included a chance to win a $5,000 home-entertainment system for anyone who stopped by the Jeep.

The aid to Altrio can be a bit of a dicey subject, since that company has overbuilt Starz! affiliates Charter Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. All the leads generated by the vehicle go to competitor Altrio.

But network officials have talked to the incumbents, Farr said, and Starz! is willing to negotiate for similar campaigns to support those operators' SVOD rollouts.

Altrio is delighted, too.

"As a small player, it really gives us an identification in the marketplace," Neiman said. Not to mention the fact that it sells Starz! revenue-generating units for $12 a month ($5 if the network is the second premium service taken).

As for the "show me" plate? It's unintentional, said Farr. The vehicle conversion company happens to be based in Missouri.