And now a word...


It's Tuesday, April 22, the middle of TV Tune-Out Week. But this assignment is bucking that trend. Not only did three Multichannel News
staffers — one in the Los Angeles DMA, one in Denver and a third in New York — sit in front of the TV, we did the reverse thing. Rather than scan the dials for shows, we've been tasked with finding the local cable pods. That's right, we're zapping to commercials from local/regional advertisers, not avoiding them. If the Nielsen people could only see us now … but that's another story.

Yet, there is a method — well, a general game plan — to this TV-watching marathon madness.

First, we wanted to see how the local and regional spots played out against the conventional wisdom. There were plenty of ads for car dealerships — the No. 1 local category. Retailers were also in force. Telecommunications was also on display.

However, the New York correspondent was left to wonder about Cablevision Systems Corp.'s wisdom of stacking spots for its own high-speed data service near those for Verizon Communications Inc.'s bundle, which includes digital subscriber line. Similarly, a break in an NBA playoff game housed ads from two auto dealerships.

Whether a scarcity of inventory, or back-room issues, pod protection, a mainstay on the national level, was not in evidence on that day.

Going in, we also wondered how many, er, vintage spots — in the case of a couple of local L.A. eateries, the units had run for more than a decade — would be spotted.

Ad quality was also a key, as those who have screened local cable spots can attest to grainy looks and cheesy production values. There were some of those along the way, but if the idea is for creative to stand out amidst the clutter, some of the less-professional efforts did just that. Indeed, while not of high-caliber of national spots, most of the commercials — with production assistance from the MSO — looked fine.

And the quality figures to improve going forward. In the Mile High City, where Comcast Corp. does not yet offer an HD digital tier, local advertisers are opting to shoot in that format because it is less expensive than film and cleaner than standard video.

Charter Communications Inc. will offer that option in the fourth quarter. Cablevision declined to participate in this story.

There was also an eye toward whether the systems had succeeded in booking business with clients truly serving local communities? Yes, many of the auto dealerships and retailers proved pretty close to home. And in a Cablevision spot for a marine-supply merchant, one of its outlets was literally right down the street from the New York correspondent.

Consideration was also given to whether spots were placed in the right show environment, or if they were airing run-of-schedule. It was a mixed bag on that front.

Still, reflecting national trends, TLC's Saturday-night hit Trading Spaces is white hot with Denver-area advertisers, too.

Pat Ivers, vice president, general manager for Comcast's Colorado and Wyoming markets, said local inventory is completely sold out for three months with furniture and home-improvement stores on board.

Anyway bearing those thoughts in mind, the following are the April 22 recaps of those searching for local cable ads on Charter's system serving Whittier, Calif., Comcast's system in Denver and Cablevision's unit in Mamaroneck in Westchester County, N.Y.