Dish Programmer: Interactive Works

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Cable operators searching for ITV business models should look hard at interactive advertising, according to Turner Media Group, the Denver-based TV programmer and ad agency.

The company programs eight specialty channels that link content with particular advertisers in a transactional, direct-response format. Those same advertisers and clients have started to experiment with interactive ads.

“Our skill set is taking a good piece of advertising and extending it across as many distribution points as possible,” said Turner Media chief operating officer David Rudnick.

All eight channels run on EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network — the Men’s Channel, Healthy Living Channel, Beauty & Fashion Channel, iShopTV, Mall TV, Auction TV, Stuff TV and Catalog TV, David Rudnick said. The Men’s Channel also reaches 20 million subscribers across Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc.

Turner Media (a privately owned firm that has no relation to Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting System Inc.) also has facilitated upwards of 20 interactive ads on Dish, including campaigns with American Express, Mercedes-Benz, The Sharper Image, Meineke mufflers, Stihl and Dell computers.

TMG also acts as an advertising representative for Dish, selling two to three minutes of local avails on the DBS provider’s 104 channels.

In that role, it sold an interactive campaign to Mercedes-Benz, which included both long-form advertising in programming on a TMG channel and a 30-second interactive spot on a national network.

A viewer who clicked on the ad would be taken to a Mercedes long-form ad within The Men’s Channel. The interactive spots are timed to run close to the beginning of a long form commercial, Rudnick said.

“We’re shifting the paradigm of advertising and providing a very positive experience of the general-market advertiser. We can combine short-form and long-form,” he said.

A second advertiser is running a campaign with a 10-minute theatrical trailer linked to a 30-second spot, TMG said. And another short-form ad linked to a long-form infomercial is in the works from another automobile manufacturer.

Advertisers are concerned about the ad-skipping capability of digital video recorders and are intrigued with platforms like video on demand and ITV.

“This is a real sweet spot for agencies,” said Rudnick, because it allows them to show clients that they’re proactive about new media.

Rudnick hopes to extend TMG’s reach into the cable space, taking advantage of the two-way platform to benefit agencies, clients and cable operators. Operators receive a split of the ad revenue TMG generates. “Our goal is to get as many eyeballs as possible,” he said.

The company has worked with Navic Networks, which supplies services to Time Warner, and OpenTV Inc., EchoStar’s middleware vendor.

It’s started integration discussions with cable VOD server vendors, which would allow TMG to place long-form ads on servers. MSO could run 30-second ads for a client on linear networks with an imbedded link to VOD-server-based long-form ads that could be played out at any time.

“VOD would be very conducive to the same model” seen with Dish, he said.

TMG is a private company and doesn’t break out revenue figures. But “we’re extremely profitable,” Rudnick said.

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