Home Box Office is actively pursuing the college-dormitory
business with separate marketing efforts targeted toward cable affiliates, students and
The premium network's "HBO on Campus"
program sends direct-mail pieces to colleges pitching the company's bulk services,
which can cost as little as $2 per month, per student, when added onto basic-cable
For certain long-term commitments, HBO offers colleges cash
incentives of up to $15 per room.
HBO has focused on the college market for the past three
years, director of college and university distribution Robert Schiffman said. And in some
cases, he added, it's taken that long to negotiate deals with schools.
Getting the students themselves involved helps the process
along. HBO and its affiliates try to make sure the student government is involved in any
negotiations over a new cable contract.
In certain cases, HBO takes student marketing one step
further by sponsoring special HBO events or offering free pizza to students who fill out
questionnaires about premium-movie-service preferences.
It's important to get students on board, some
affiliates said, because some academic leaders believe that offering too many
entertainment choices could endanger students' grades.
But other colleges use HBO to replace other on-campus movie
services because it requires less technical assistance, Comcast Corp.'s Comcast
Cablevision of Delmarva's (Md.) commercial-development manager Karen Clayland said.
Affiliates involved in the HBO on Campus program agreed
that it takes time and effort to sign college contracts, but it's worth the effort,
especially when a deal puts the service before every dorm room on campus.
"My average contract length for colleges is 120
months-plus," AT&T Broadband & Internet Services' TCI of Northern
Iowa's senior-commercial-accounts manager Lee Grassley said.
And when students move from dormitories to off-campus
housing, they're more likely to take cable and HBO if they've subscribed to it
at school, Grassley added.
But according to William Gang, director of sales training
and assessment for Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Long Island, N.Y., division, offering
premium services as an option to students on an individual basis is "a pay
nightmare" because when given the choice, students often don't pay their monthly
However, offering HBO in bulk allows colleges to bundle the
cost of the service with other dorm fees, eliminating the need to baby-sit converter boxes
in each room.
Colleges benefit from offering HBO to all of their students
because they get a cut of the revenues. The service also adds value to on-campus housing,
leading to greater student satisfaction, Schiffman said.
Regional sports networks don't fare as well at
colleges, Gang said, because many female and international students aren't interested
in paying for bulk sports programming.
HBO isn't the only programmer targeting college
students these days: Bravo has hit the college-campus circuit in recent weeks to promote
its new original series, The Awful Truth, starring Michael Moore.
Senior vice president of marketing and public relations
Caroline Bock arranged for 25 college campuses to host the series' debut in their
student unions last month, and some decided to continue the events for the duration of the
series, which runs through June.
About a half-dozen of those colleges required satellite
dishes from EchoStar Communications Corp. because Bravo was not available over the campus