HD Promo Kicks Off

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Cable's latest nationwide HDTV marketing campaign kicks off this week in tandem with Sony Corp. — but minus three major cable companies that joined previous “Only Cable Can” promotions touting cable as the best way to watch sports in high-definition.

Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks won't join the “Go for 2” promotion, which offers consumers buying a Sony HDTV set two $50 checks that can be used to pay their cable bills.

But operators passing 80% of U.S. cable homes have agreed to run cross-channel spots for this football-centered campaign (Nov. 1 through Feb. 5). They are: Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable, Adelphia Communications Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Insight Communications Co. and Mediacom Communications Corp.

The Sony campaign is the fourth national HDTV-on-cable initiative the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing and its MSO members have run with consumer-electronics makers this year.

They're cable's answer to the national campaigns run by direct-broadcast satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and Dish Network — especially DirecTV and Samsung Electronics America Inc., which are offering DirecTV customers buying a Samsung HDTV and DirecTV's exclusive “NFL Sunday Ticket” game package $500 in savings on DirecTV receivers, programming and Samsung HDTVs.

One advantage for DirecTV and Samsung: their HDTV ads have footage from National Football League games. The Only Cable Can spots will run generic football images, because cable companies don't have a licensing agreement with the NFL, according to CTAM's Seth Morrison.

EARLIER CAMPAIGNS

There was an Only Cable Can HDTV campaign with Samsung in March, promoting cable as the best way to watch CBS's coverage of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament.

The industry also ran an Olympics promotion with Panasonic Consumer Electronics in August.

Last month, CTAM agreed to another HDTV promotion with Samsung, backing an HDTV concert series being distributed by INHD and INHD2 on Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Adelphia systems.

One goal of “Go For 2” is to expand the number of consumers buying an HDTV with a cable high-definition package, because many consumers buy HDTV sets and “don't necessarily attach a distribution service.”

Market researcher Bruce Leichtman estimates there are 5 to 6 million U.S. HDTV set owners that don't subscribe to a cable or satellite HD package.

Morrison said the Sony HDTV promotion will feature a national media buy, including spots on CBS's National Football League game telecasts, as well as cross-channel spots set aside by the cable companies.

Only Cable Can ads have helped, cable companies said. But some MSOs have called the efforts overly broad, and said they don't allow operators that offer unique services a chance to tout their own products.

“Because it's creative by committee, it's challenging to get a solid, hard-hitting message out into the marketplace that is universally applicable, given the variety of development in the product platforms,” Charter vice president of branding and creative services Greg Field said in July.

CHARTER'S TAKE

Charter chose not to participate in the Sony football campaign because it is focused on local HDTV marketing campaigns, spokesman Dave Andersen said last Thursday.

“We like the CTAM collaborative initiative,” Andersen said. “The only reason we're not doing this one is we have our own initiative with mom-and-pop consumer electronics retailers in '04, and that's what we're focused on.”

Bright House spokeswoman Jennifer Mooney said the MSO isn't participating in the Sony campaign because it was sidetracked working on hurricane recovery efforts in its core Florida systems when planning for the Sony campaign began.

Cablevision officials didn't return calls last week.

Morrison remained upbeat about the number of operators participating, pointing out they pass 80% of U.S. cable homes. “Each company has to make their own decisions, and we respect that,” he said.

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