Cable Eye for Gay Pride

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There is more to gay pride festivals than wild costumes and parades. Cable operators are finding the events are a great opportunity for bonding with a community known for its affluence and tendency to spend on personal technology.

Nearly every state has a gay pride event now, said Maria Dwyer, senior vice president of distribution, sales and marketing for the gay-targeted Here! Networks. In partnership with the network, operators including Cox Communications Inc. systems in Las Vegas, San Diego and Rhode Island, Time Warner Cable in Milwaukee and Houston, and Charter Communications Inc. in St. Louis, sponsored parades, secured large local ad buys and met with gay community leaders.

STEPPING OUT IN N.Y.

New York featured an effort by all three operators: Time Warner, RCN Corp. and Cablevision Systems Corp., according to Here! The goal: to broaden awareness of the carriage of Here! on local systems and drive subscription video-on-demand sales.

These companies have already reached out to the gay community for subscribers, Dwyer said, but have stepped up their efforts this year.

Cox, for its part, employed multiple elements with its Las Vegas initiative, according to director of public affairs Stephanie Stallworth.

The most visible: a red 1956 Cadillac in the gay pride parade last month, containing two cast members from the Here! series Dante’s Cove, plus the operator’s own “Channel One Guy,” an employee dressed in a big foam “1” suit, an image used to promote Cox’s on-demand program channel locally.

A street team of Cox volunteers passed out lighted Mardi Gras beads to the audience and distributed coupons for a free month of Here!

Stallworth reports that the system saw a 33% return rate on the coupons within the one-month redemption window. Churn “is just not happening” once the $5.95 charge kicked in, she added.

The system relied on things like “bar cards” for a more grass-roots level of outreach. A gay employee “volunteered to paper the town,” distributing the informational cards not just to bars, but tanning salons, eateries and other businesses with a heavy gay clientele.

The employee, Robert Johnston, even coaxed businesses into putting up banners, eventually covering 75% of Cox’s targeted businesses, Stallworth said.

Taking full advantage of the marketing opportunities with Here! has generated a 400% growth rate in its SVOD sales, Stallworth said.

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