Comedy's Serious About Boosting Affils' Revenues

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Comedy Central has been displaying its serious side — at least off-channel — as it helps affiliates generate new revenue from digital cable, high-speed cable modems and telephony.

Vice president of affiliate marketing Steve Males said that Comedy has developed three separate affiliate-marketing promotions that his team is tailoring to address the needs of AT&T Broadband, Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications Inc.

In fact, the network will announce those promotions at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit in Boston today (July 15), billing its affiliate-marketing team as the one-stop shop "for MSOs looking for laughs and additional revenue."

Cox has already had success with one of those customized promotions. Last year, they partnered with Comedy on "Lewis Black: The 2001 Rants & Raves Tour" in eight of that MSO's markets. Consumers who sampled Cox's high-speed Internet access, digital-cable and telephony services displayed at high-tech kiosks in Cox Retail and Circuit City stores in those markets got two tickets to see Black's standup act at a local venue. Black is featured weekly on Comedy's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Both parties said last week that the Rants & Raves campaign was so successful they will team up again, most likely this fall, targeting seven markets.

"We are once again excited about Comedy Central's Rants & Raves Tour and the opportunities around it to drive demand for our suite of bundled services," Cox senior vice president of marketing Joe Rooney said. He indicated that the promotion has boosted the sales of bundled services but did not divulge details.

Comedy director of affiliate marketing Susan Wladdich said Cox's systems in Phoenix; Omaha, Neb.; Rhode Island; and Hampton Roads, Va., will be participating again this year, while this year will mark the first time out for the MSO's systems in Fairfax, Va.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Wichita, Kan.

AT&T Broadband plans to team with Comedy this fall on an invitation-only BattleBots-themed show in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco featuring comedians Bil Dwyer and Arj Barker, Males said.

The objective is similar to the Cox campaign — to drive consumers to in-store demos for AT&T Broadband's high-speed Internet service.

Tickets will only be available via 13 Gateway Computer retail stores within those DMAs — and only to those who actually sample AT&T's products at the in-store kiosks. Those who purchase a modem and service from the MSO during the promotional window will get a cobranded premium item.

Come October, the MSO will promote those events via cross-channel promos, local radio spots and at each system's Web site, said Comedy director of partnership marketing Lucinda Martinez.

The upcoming promotion "not only helps generate sales and interest of AT&T Broadband Internet, but will also drive in-store traffic in the Gateway stores as well as create awareness of Comedy Central, their programming and online content," said the MSO's manager of partnership marketing Steve Zeiden.

Charter linked with Comedy last May on a cobranded electronic-mail campaign that sought to boost sales of the Charter Pipeline modem service. That e-mail — a special offer designed by the MSO — targeted recipients whose names were culled from Comedy's database of registered online users who had opted to receive promotional information from the programmer, Males explained. Those transmissions reached roughly 55,000 Charter subscribers, and have already yielded 500 new inquiries for Charter Pipeline, he noted.

Charter director of Internet and portal strategy Shahid Butt said the promotion was "relatively easy to execute, very cost-effective and easy to replicate with other partners. It also generated some very good leads for Charter."

That success has inspired Comedy Central to try to duplicate the promotion with other MSOs, including AT&T Broadband, Cox and Time Warner Cable. According to Males, AT&T Broadband next month will send a similar e-mail offer to 146,000 of those systems' 5.8 million subscribers pulled from Comedy's database. Time Warner also may use that same e-mail tactic in August, he added.