ITV Takes 'History’ Test


Charter Communications’ Los Angeles region is in the midst of an interactive experiment that embeds an opt-in element into a History tune-in spot, allowing interested viewers to tune from the commercial to a microchannel offering more video and data about the programming.

The experiment is helping to promote the latest season of History’s Cities of the Underworld. The six-week advertising campaign began two weeks before the season debut of the series on Oct. 26. The interactive application is available to about 300,000 digital homes in the area, according to Craig Berkley, corporate director of advanced media for Charter.

The operator pitched the experiment to History, Berkley said, as the series seemed a natural for a “deep dive” by fans. The series, hosted by Don Wildman, explores the abandoned subways, tunnels, tombs and subbasements beneath the world’s great cities.

The test was designed to pique viewer interest in watching the series, but also to determine how the application may impact ongoing viewer behavior during the show’s initial run, executives from both the programmer and operator said.

Tune-in spots are placed across several networks in the test area. They are tagged with an interactive overlay that allows an interested viewer to press the “A” key on the remote to immediately tune to content about the show. By opting in, the viewer is tuned to Ch. 966, where they can drill five pages deep into content about the show. On the microchannel, viewers can view video highlights of previous seasons, access a code that entitles them to a 20% discount on DVDs ordered at The History Channel Web site and answer trivia questions about the series.

Neither executive wanted to provide specific usage data until the experiment is done, but History vice president of distribution, marketing and business development Mark Garner said he expected users in the triple digits, adding usage to date has exceeded expectations.

“We want to see how it builds. Do people return for more information? Will they engage more than people without interactivity?” said Garner.

Charter has been conducting experiments in the Los Angeles market, using tools from Navic Networks in set-tops to offer targeted, interactive ads. For instance, in June, the market’s digital customers saw customized ads for Starz. The subscribers to the premium service saw a different ad than non-premium households, or homes that subscribed to premiums other than Starz. Consumers could also order the premium service via their remote controls.

“This is a very new area that needs to be defined further,” said Berkley. “This is an opportunity to learn.”