Cablevision Seeks a Digital Surge

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With its late-arriving iO: Interactive Optimum digital-cable platform already in 80,400 households in metropolitan New York City, Cablevision Systems Corp. is stepping up marketing efforts to hit its target of 150,000 to 175,000 digital homes by New Year's Eve.

A set of cross-channel messages — bolstered by direct-mail deliveries and a redesigned Web site (www.io.tv) — began running in heavy rotation throughout Cablevision's territory last week, after a brief trial flight in mid-October.

The spots — which carry the tag line "TV is now iO" — highlight the many capabilities of a platform that includes digital cable-networks, video-on-demand and interactive applications, including electronic mail, games and special versions of ESPN and its News 12 regional-news services.

The expansion of iO from pockets of Cablevision's New York City-area cluster to most of the territory has made the campaign possible. The Bethpage, N.Y.-based operator was the last major MSO to introduce digital cable, but it's now striving to get iO into as many homes as possible.

More than 750,000 of the MSO's homes passed became iO-capable in October and nearly 1 million more will be able to receive the platform by the end of the month, officials said.

The 80,400 iO customers tallied by Cablevision through Sept. 30 — a year and two days after the package launched — are from the MSO's home base of Long Island, New York; Morris County, N.J.; and Warwick, N.Y. in New York's northern suburbs.

The recent passings cover the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and southern Brooklyn; Westchester County, N.Y.; and various cities in upstate New York and central and northern New Jersey.

Spotlight on glitz

By Nov. 30, Cablevision expects more than 3.3 million of homes to be iO-capable — or the entire operation, aside from franchises in Connecticut.

With so many features to highlight, the promo blitz will underscore VOD and subscription VOD, digital networks and Music Choice's assortment of digital-audio services.

TV spots were created by ad agency Red Tettemer and graphics house Liquid Light. One 60-second ad gives an overview of iO, while four 30-second spots flesh out individual features.

For now, interactivity will be downplayed.

"What we've learned over this year is that iO customers love VOD the most," said MSO vice president of digital product strategy Matt Weiss. "They love the convenience, control and titles, and that's why they buy the service.

"That's followed by digital cable and audio services. The challenge is that our product is so deep, so broad in content that it's tough to communicate all that in a short message or mail piece. So we'll play to our strengths, the features our current customers love most."

The spots, which Weiss described as "humanistic," mix flashy graphics with scenes of subscribers using the service.

Mag Rack — the Rainbow Media Corp. suite of on-demand niche digital networks — has been a feature of iO from the start, said Weiss, and will likely be touted through a cross-channel effort of its own down the road. A sport for interactive News 12 is also in development, he said.

Cablevision subscribers can check the io.tv Web site, crafted by Web-design firm Robert Greenberg Associates, for complete descriptions of iO features, content previews, future programming news and set-top self-provisioning.

Where it is

Also — in an operator-specific adaptation of Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s Go2Broadband Internet site (http://cpss.go2broadband.com/) — Cablevision subscribers can check on the Web to see if iO is available in their neighborhood, review package or pricing options, then call to order.

The renovated site "is much more content-rich, more fun to play with," Weiss said. "We've had fantastic feedback so far from those users."

Cablevision officials are drawing up an iO marketing plan for 2003 that's expected to include print, radio and outdoor ad campaigns, as well as demonstrations inside the MSO's The Wiz consumer-electronics stores. Displays and demonstration areas at other New York retailers are also being considered.

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