The pitch, believes Jerry Maglio, a veteran cable marketer
turned consultant, should be surefire for cable executives: There's no better medium
than video to tell your story.
Combined with focus-group results showing that most cable
customers didn't know what their cable operators were doing outside of channel
lineups and rate increases, Maglio was convinced that the time was right for a series of
spots that informed viewers about both issues in the cable-television industry nationally,
as well as specific news about their local system.
The result has been "CTV Updates," which debuted
at the beginning of the month on systems owned by Rifkin & Associates Inc.,
FrontierVision Partners and Triax Cablevision. Two 60-second spots are produced every
month in Denver by Wild Boar Communications (a partnership between Maglio and producer Jim
Johnson), covering timely topics, such as decisions by the Federal Communications
Commission that affect cable and the industry's 50th anniversary, as well as more
generic subjects, like Cable in the Classroom and customer-service issues.
"It became clear to me that cable systems needed to
create a communications program that conveyed information that the customer wasn't
getting, as well as their own point of view," said Maglio, who served as the
marketing chief for American Television & Communications, Daniels & Associates and
United Artists Cable before becoming a consultant seven years ago. "It had to be
different from a branding and image campaign, and it had be in a different form than a
newsletter or billstuffer, which are either thrown out or only read by one person."
One of the keys to the success of the series, Maglio said,
was a credible on-air talent who would inspire trust among viewers. Maglio ended up
securing the services of Ed Greene, a popular weatherman for KUSA-TV, NBC's affiliate
in Denver, but he had to agree to exclude Colorado cable systems from showing CTV Updates.
Maglio is charging MSOs at least $6,000 per month (and
more, depending on the company's size) to show two Updates spots, customized with the
MSO's logo, as many times as they wish, on different systems.
MSOs can also get system-specific CTV Updates to augment
local-marketing efforts. Rifkin, for example, wanted customers to know about its rebuild
efforts and service upgrades. FrontierVision wanted spots to introduce itself to customers
in newly acquired cable systems. And Triax plans to use CTV Updates to inform subscribers
about its upcoming digital launch.
Lee Clayton, vice president of marketing for Rifkin, said
she views the spots as a vital component of the MSO's re-energized communications
"Customers tell us that the only time that they hear
from us is when there's a rate increase, or when we want to sell something," she
said. "We haven't done a good job of communicating and, now that we have an
important new product in digital arriving and an improved level of service, we have to do
a better job of keeping people informed."
An added benefit of having better-informed customers,
Clayton added, was the fact that subscribers would be more knowledgeable about the
economics of the cable business -- including the programming costs that contribute to rate
Maglio said he's optimistic that the spots will become
a cable staple, because "the operators themselves suggested that they needed it. But
they never get around to it because of pressures of time and money. This way, it's
affordable, and someone else can do it for them."