Cable operators are embracing multicultural-TV marketing opportunities and getting smarter about using localism and multi-service bundling as a hedge against satellite-TV providers that have more overall ethnic programming.
"Are we there yet? Absolutely not, we've got a long way to go," Natalie Rouse, director of multicultural marketing at Comcast, said during a breakfast panel session on multicultural TV Wednesday. "But we're getting there ... we've got a focus today."
Giving customers a full experience in their languages - when they call in for help, when an installer comes to their homes - is still a work in progress but an effort operators concede is important and one they are working hard on staffing up for, said Maureen Lane, a programming executive in Time Warner Cable's West region. TWC uses a translator service for inbound callers now, she said, for example in Chinese, "but we are taking that to the next level so we have people on staff that can do that."
"I think that the focus recently on the bilingual household was a key sea change," Phil Polk, director of segment marketing at Cox Communications, said of England and Spanish mixed programming tiers such as El Mix on Cox and El Paquetazo on Time Warner Cable. They go after households with multiple generations at home, using different languages. "That gets us to table stakes," he said, or parity with DirecTV and Dish Network that have been targeting multiculturals longer and have more exclusive programming.
The next steps - to try to "race ahead" - are to add focused high-speed Internet and phone services that bring in customers and keep them, as they do with the general population. "I think the bundle definitely helps level-set for us," Polk said. "I think the next steps we take are really about differentiation, things we can do as a multi-service provider that the DBS guys can't do."
Operators at the panel session, which was organized by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable, gave credit to programming and local partners for helping understand how to market to, say, Hispanic and Asian market segments. Lane said Sprout helped TWC create some local on-demand programming - shot in LA - to teach Spanish and English. She also credited KCSI-TV, a local broadcaster, in helping TWC reach Asians. "We're in touch with the local communities that the national providers can't do," she said.
TWC worked with Univision on a big event in Times Square for last October's launch of El Mejor on Demand, Univision's free video-on-demand channel, and they are working together on a big event this Friday at the Home Depot Center soccer stadium for the service's local launch, Lane said. The event was marketed for about three days, in which time 10,000 tickets for a taping of Don Francisco's Sabado Gigante variety show were distributed.
Jennifer Ball, senior vice president of affiliate marketing at Univision Communications, credited TWC with a smart approach to targeting Hispanics.
Natalie Rouse, national director of multicultural marketing at Comcast, said that when the top cable operator had a local launch of a Filipino network, it used a concert as a kickoff event. The venue filled up with 3,000 people and 5,000 more people were lined around the block. The event generated 4,800 calls and 4,200 sales in 42 hours, she said.
Polk said Cox has a similar experience targeting African Americans with a gospel concert, featuring Mary Mary, in Macon, Ga., that was put together with BET.
TWC is very focused on Hispanics, especially given the operator's big markets (which also include Dallas), Lane said. It's trying something new, a genre-based approach, using sports-related programming and events with Fox en Espanol and Univision, which has the Spanish-language rights to the upcoming FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.
Digital media also is emerging as key to multicultural marketing, according to the panelists. "Online is huge in these ethnic markets," Comcast's Rouse said. "I have 88% penetration of high-speed Internet with the South Asian community in this country -- 88%. So if I want to get messaging out to them, guess where I'm going? I'm going to go and try and find them where they're going online, and it's not the general-market Web sites."