Cox's Small Biz Special: A Free TV


Michael Bienstock, principal of Semaphore Investments FAS in Irvine, Calif., has had some bad experiences with T-1 and DSL providers to his base of operations in the Irvine Spectrum office complex.

"They're going out of business all over the place," he said. The failure rate of some of these providers is just one of the reasons the executive recently signed up for phone, Internet and video services with Cox Business Services.

The fact they gave him a free 27-inch Toshiba television set didn't hurt, either.

"Cox has billions in market cap. They're not going out of business," Bienstock said. "I get one bill. They gave us a TV; they can't be beat."

Bienstock's firm is one of the Southern California businesses that have responded to a marketing campaign that Cox launched June 30, targeting businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

If the businesses agree to make a two-year commitment to a bundle of video, Internet and phone service, Cox will give the new customer a TV set. Additional benefits include waived installation charges — a value of $349, according to the company — and lower service rates than many providers offer.

"We saw a global opportunity, as a cable operator, as the only player out there offering three products, to leverage video to get phone and Internet services in," said Dave Montierth, vice president of Cox Business Services for Orange County and Palos Verde.

Executives figured the offer might appeal to law firms, medical offices and stock brokerages interested in a TV for a break area or news updates.

Through a relationship with Best Buy, Cox was able to negotiate the best price on the giveaway TVs, which normally sell for $250.

"It's a meaningful image: The installer brings the TV set with him," said Jayne Guilford, marketing manager, Cox Business Services, Orange County and Palos Verde. "The installers made us promise to never do [this offer again]," she joked.

Cox sent 10,000 targeted direct-mail pieces and ran some newspaper ads. Fliers were also inserted in local chamber of commerce newsletters.

The executives declined to state the penetration goals for the campaign, slated to end Aug. 31. But they felt the offer has increased the buzz about Cox's services and its bundle.

Bienstock was happy for the opportunity to learn about the bundle. He estimates he will save 5% to 10% per year on connection charges through his new deal with Cox.

"Cox did a comprehensive cost analysis for me before I signed on," he said, based on past vendor bills Semaphore forwarded to the cable provider.

He also likes the fact there is one company rep with which to deal. When the brokerage recently installed new, more powerful servers, Semaphore's Internet technology guru called Cox to work out technical specifications.

"I didn't even have to get involved," said the company owner happily.