Cox Bets on Game Show’s Retail Play

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Cox Communications Inc. hopes its Phoenix partnership with Game Show Network, Sony Corp. and Circuit City Stores Inc. will deal its Cox@Home broadband service a winning hand at retail.

In a promotion that runs through Aug. 4, Phoenix-area consumers who sign up for Cox@Home through one of eight area Circuit City locations will be eligible for a co-branded $75 gift card good for store merchandise.

Consumers will be encouraged to buy Sony-branded electronics or computer products with the card, although it can also be used to purchase items from other manufacturers.

Circuit City began featuring Cox@Home at in-store displays in Phoenix over a year ago. Cox added GSN to its analog cable lineup last December.

According to GSN senior vice president of marketing Dena Kaplan, the joint promotion has been in the works for more than a year. In addition to the Cox@Home acquisition component, GSN is supplying Cox with a Circuit City gift card for retention incentives and win-back programs.

Under the retention program, Cox customers receive a Circuit City bonus card for buying deeper bundles of voice, video and data. Later, they receive another $75 card for maintaining a certain level of service over a given time, Kaplan said.

GSN plans to use celebrity game show hosts to help drive consumer traffic to Circuit City locations, where the network will host games and give away Sony merchandise as prizes. Although the celebrities involved have not yet been confirmed, Alan Thicke has participated on past GSN tours.

Late last month, Cox, GSN and Circuit City executives officially tossed out the first pitch for the promotional campaign through an appearance at an Arizona Diamondbacks-Atlanta Braves baseball game. The marketing partners gave away a 52-inch Sony television in celebration of the retail campaign.

Circuit City sells Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS)-compliant cable modems and self-installation kits for the Cox@Home high-speed Internet service.

"What Circuit City brings is a presence where people can learn about the product and test drive it," Circuit City spokesman Bill Cimino said. Store sales staff will also help consumers determine whether their computers are equipped to handle the cable-modem technology.

The retailer will promote the Cox/GSN offer through its weekly advertising circulars, while Cox and GSN will send direct-mail brochures to Cox cable subscribers encouraging them to upgrade to broadband.

Cox Phoenix vice president of community relations and televideo Ivan Johnson said the MSO was attracted to the GSN promotion because of the programmer's focus on interactivity.

"We want to help Cox drive broadband because it will provide a much more enhanced experience" for GSN viewers, Kaplan said.

The network already allows viewers to interact with their television programming by telephone or on the Web. GSN is also involved with several interactive-TV platforms, but Cox's digital cable set-top boxes don't yet offer interactive options in Phoenix.

At GSN, the joint promotion was spearheaded by Kaplan and senior vice president of sales Anne Droste. Once the pitch was made to Cox, Kaplan added, "it was truly a very collaborative process," with considerable back-and-forth between the MSO and the programmer.

"We really tried to tailor this to Cox and its market conditions," Kaplan said. GSN hopes to roll out the campaign in additional Cox systems, she added.

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