Cox Communications Inc. in Northern Virginia converted to digital in December 2000, but it faced more than just the typical analog to digital conversion.
That system operates in a high-end demographic in suburban Washington, D.C. Subscribers in that technologically savvy area are well aware of other digital entertainment options. Adding to the complexity, Cox was deploying digital at a time when it was evolving from a fully-scrambled dual plant system to an upgraded single plant system with traps.
"Customers faced channel positioning changes, changes to the analog channel lineup — with some channels previously offered on analog now being available only on digital — and the need to exchange their dual-line analog converters for single-line boxes," because many of those analog boxes wouldn't work after the dual plant B cable was terminated, said Tricia Stevens, digital upgrade project manager for Cox. And not only could subscribers upgrade to digital, but analog subscribers could return their set-tops and go direct to their TV set.
Cox decided to use a combination of media, direct sales and deployment of its 28-foot "Neighborhood Cable Cruiser" trailer to lead the conversion effort.
The system created a 15-minute program explaining the details of the upgrade and ran it frequently on its local access channel. Cox also updated its Web site to include complete digital conversion and feature information.
In the field, marketing commenced node-by-node. Subscribers in a node that was about to be upgraded received two direct-mail pieces explaining the benefits and impacts of the digital conversion. Two nights before the upgrade in any node actually began, direct sales representatives canvassed the neighborhood, explaining the upgrade to consumers and pre-selling the service. Bags containing information on the upgrade, customer impact and digital service were left with subscribers or on their front doors.
Included in the bags was information on where the Cable Cruiser would be located during the node conversion. Customers could exchange or receive new cable converters and see product demonstrations at the cruiser. Sales representatives and technicians manned the cruiser to help answer subscribers' questions.
Once a node's upgrade was completed, Cox followed up with direct-mail pieces and telemarketing calls to those analog subscribers who didn't sign up for digital.
The pre-upgrade canvass helped Cox to generate 20 percent to 25 percent take rates for digital. About 60 percent of those sales came from the pre-upgrade canvass, with the balance coming from the cruiser. Current digital penetration for basic subscribers in upgraded areas is 43.5 percent, with one node reaching as high as 74 percent.