Marketers' View of 2002: Rosy the Rest of the Way

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Cable's marketers have their hands full this year, introducing new products such as video-on-demand, subscription VOD, high-definition television and multiple Internet service providers. At the same time, cable faces ongoing competitive pressures from direct-broadcast satellite, as well as close scrutiny from Wall Street investors looking for the industry to deliver on its broadband promise.

Multichannel News marketing editor Monica Hogan asked 16 industry marketing executives for their views on the challenges that face them this year. Here are their edited responses.

Sean Bratches, ESPN executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing

MCN: What is your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Bratches:
To communicate that ESPN is more than sports news. Our objective has been to broaden the network in terms of potential viewers. With entertainment, as long as we stay true to our brand and genre, it gives us the opportunity to bring new viewers into our network.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Bratches:
We will be very aggressive on the broadband front. The cable-modem service today is analogous to when the traditional cable service was in its early years. When our cable affiliates can aggregate proprietary content for sale to the consumer's PC, that's the next evolution.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Bratches:
Unequivocally, our efforts to promote Season on the Brink, ESPN's first theatrical movie.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Bratches:
We provide an extraordinary product and service. We need to continue to maintain our focus, and it will bear fruit.

Pam Euler Halling, senior vice president of marketing and programming, Insight Communications Co.

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Euler Halling:
Balancing technology and consumer-growth initiatives.

Within the next few weeks, we'll be launching a new and improved product. We'll launch [Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.'s VOD service] Mag Rack as part of the lowest level of our digital service at no extra charge. We hope to have Mag Rack up and running by the end of this month.

MCN: Which product are you most aggressively promoting this year?

Euler Halling:
For the second half of the year, VOD, soon to be followed by SVOD, which will launch in August. We'll start with [Home Box Office] and eventually have all subscription services, as well as basic networks. We're looking at charging an incremental $4.99 for each premium SVOD service.

Our feeling is nothing should be free, because everyone has costs associated with this product.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Euler Halling:
We're doing more targeting of our customer base and non-customer base than ever before.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Euler Halling:
I'm very sanguine. It's been a tough past six months. I'm proud to say I work for a company of the utmost integrity. Our products are undervalued. If we stay very focused on the customer and meet the expectations of analysts and investors, I think we'll do great.

Fran Zeuli, vice president of marketing and sales field support, AT&T Broadband

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Zeuli:
Customer retention continues to be a challenge in today's highly competitive environment. "AT&T Broadband Rewards" is just one of our targeted retention efforts that helps us retain a specific group of customers.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Zeuli:
[Revenue-generating unit] growth has been our biggest focus this year. This effort includes selling digital cable, high-speed cable Internet and phone service to new customers, as well as upgrading our current video customers. When we bundle these products, we're ultra-competitive.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Zeuli:
There hasn't been one silver-bullet campaign, but rather a strong combination of targeted, sometimes guerilla-like campaigns that have been successful at driving sales for their intended targets.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Zeuli:
Call me Pollyanna, but I look at the glass as full. Our industry continues to make great strides in selling and bundling digital video, high-speed data and phone service. I'm also pumped up about the industry-wide momentum in advanced video services like VOD, SVOD, and HDTV.

Seth Morrison, senior vice president of marketing, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Morrisuon:
Our biggest challenge is demonstrating our educational and bottom-line business value at a time when money is tight and everyone is careful about how they spend money. I'm confident from the industry response to CTAM conferences this year that we've met that challenge.

MCN: What product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Morrison:
For us it's the Summit, our biggest event annually.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Morrison:
I'm optimistic for the long term, but I think it will take a few months to turn around.

Sergei Kuharsky, senior vice president of marketing, In Demand LLC

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Kuharsky:
Helping our owners in launching VOD and making sure it's a successful business. VOD is moving from somewhat of a test phase to a more aggressive rollout phase.

MCN: Which service is your company promoting most aggressively this year?

Kuharsky:
This year we're still very aggressive in the near-VOD technology, which will, over time, give way to true VOD.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Kuharsky:
Our "Winter Mega Movies" campaign in the pay-per-view movie category. We collected the biggest movies in the timeframe and did a focused campaign for our cable MSOs.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Kuharsky:
The overall outlook will be a transitional one. We're moving slowly from a near-VOD world to an on-demand world. The opportunity is huge.

Brian Kelly, senior vice president of marketing, Time Warner Cable

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Kelly:
Our biggest opportunity continues to be subscriber growth, either through acquiring new subscribers or retaining the ones we have. To achieve that, we are introducing new products that customers tell us they're looking for.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Kelly:
We have a huge focus on multiple ISPs and introducing the concept of choice. We're seeing the results, more growth faster than we'd had in the past with a single ISP. On the video side, the huge growth for us is in on-demand.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Kelly:
In our case, we are well ahead of last year's pace in critical growth areas of new customers and high-speed online, and I don't expect any end in sight to that. We expect high-speed online to grow at a pace that outstrips the industry.

Rick Haskins, executive vice president, the Lifetime Television brand

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Haskins:
Our biggest challenge at Lifetime the network is maintaining the position of being No. 1, and that takes both marketing and programming. The other challenge, which is very exciting, is launching the magazine. We've just pulled it out of the incubator and it's now time to test it in the marketplace.

MCN: Which product are you most aggressively promoting this year?

Haskins:
The product we're pushing most is Lifetime the brand, and how it fits in with women's lives.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Haskins:
Our most successful marketing campaign has been "Summer of a Lifetime," which celebrates women and invites them to watch Lifetime during the summer.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Haskins:
I tend to be very positive. Cable seems as strong now as in the past years. We continue to grow in ratings.

Joe Rooney, senior vice president of marketing, Cox Communications Inc.

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Rooney:
Cox's biggest marketing challenge this year is in execution. We've got great products with strong demand for them. How do we continue our record growth in a tougher economy and a confused industry? We want to attack by reducing churn while we continue to drive the acquisition engine.

We're also executing a new brand strategy, called "Your Friend in the Digital Age."

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Rooney:
We're about balance. We promote the bundle. But we're probably focused more on basic and high-speed than we have been in past years.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Rooney:
We've had a campaign for the past year called "Feel this Way." It's been terrific for us to break through the clutter.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Rooney:
I'm very bullish on the growth potential in the cable industry. Even in markets where nearly 50 percent of our customers are in a bundle, we're still seeing growth.

Chris Moseley, executive vice president, worldwide marketing and brand strategy, Hallmark Channel

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Moseley:
With so many channels out there, breaking through with what we have to offer is a big challenge. It requires a hefty off-air media investment.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Moseley:
Monthly big original events to bring in new people and cross-promote what we have. It's all part of being a new channel and raising awareness.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Moseley:
In terms of ratings, it was Roughing It, the highest-rated original we've had so far. We went after that a lot of different ways, segmenting the audience.

MCN: What's your overall outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Moseley:
Things are picking up in terms of the advertising economy. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Laureen Ong, president, National Geographic Channel

MCN: What is your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Ong:
Getting the word out to the consumer. Because the brand has been in television for 35 years, it's hard to define to people that they need to ask for us because there's a new destination. One of our biggest projects is the rollout on Time Warner Cable in Manhattan in the fourth quarter.

MCN: Which program are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Ong:National Geographic Today. That show really delivers an immediacy and relevancy that no one else can.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Ong:
We had great response to a show last December called Super Croc, and as a result we put together a 40-foot model of a prehistoric crocodilian that travels around the country.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Ong:
Just last month, cable surpassed broadcast. We're very optimistic that it's going to continue in that direction. People aren't watching more television, they're just making different choices.

Len Fogge, executive vice president of creative and marketing, Showtime Networks Inc.

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Fogge:
SVOD is one of our great challenges. It's rolling out and the early results are really terrific. We really want the consumers to understand the offer.

MCN: Which program are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Fogge: Power and Beauty, the story of JFK's mistress. It's a fun, exposé story. And in October, we've got Bang, Bang, You're Dead.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Fogge:
Two weeks ago, we had a very successful preview, one of the most successful we've had in years.

MCN: What's your overall outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Fogge:
We are very excited. This is a great time to be in the premium space. SVOD and high-definition television — this all helps our linear channels.

Mike Hale, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Starz Encore Group LLC

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Hale:
Driving digital into homes, getting the box inside homes and keeping it there. People are trying it, but they're not keeping it. There's no big consumer buzz about digital cable.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Hale:
As in every year, Starz SuperPak. On-demand in subscription-based products is huge. The industry has embraced that.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Hale:
In the systems where we've launched Starz on Demand, consumers like it, they get it, and they will pay more for it.

The industry needs to define digital with products such as this.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Hale:
I'm still bullish on cable. I think they're beaten down. I still believe in the strength of broadband. More marketing and better messaging have to be out there.

Adam Rockmore, vice president of marketing, Food Network

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Rockmore:
Communicating what the brand stands for and continuing to drive ratings for key programming.

MCN: Which TV show are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Rockmore:Emeril. We have a big fourth-quarter program called Emeril Salutes America.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Rockmore:
We had good success with our "Couch Potatoes Weekend," two full days of programming on nothing but potatoes.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Rockmore:
For Food, given the category we're in, we're real excited and optimistic about our ratings and ad sales. The market trend seems to be in line with our positioning. There's more entertaining at home. People like to find comfort in certain things, and our network fits in with that nicely.

Mike Boyd, vice president of marketing, Home & Garden Television

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Boyd:
Communicating to viewers what we have on air that's of interest to them and increasing viewership. It's a combination of giving viewers what they want and telling them we have what they want.

MCN: Which product are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Boyd:
Our new season, which debuts in October. One show I'm especially proud of is Public Places, Private Spaces.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Boyd:
Two I'm proud of were the campaign we did in the spring to promote Thursday-night shows, and January's Rose Bowl coverage, our highest-rated show ever. And though it's not run out of my camp, the "Dream Home" giveaway continues to grow phenomenally.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Boyd:
One of the challenges we see for any network is increased fragmentation through additional networks, personal video recorders and the Internet. There's so much media clamoring for our viewers' attention.

Anne Murphy, vice president of strategic marketing, Discovery Networks Inc.

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Murphy:
Our biggest challenge is promoting Discovery HD Theater. We're really happy we're the forerunner in introducing this product that affiliates want. But it's always tough when you're the first one out of the gate with a product. Our affiliate partners are still determining their marketing strategies for high-definition.

MCN: Which product or TV show are you promoting most aggressively this year?

Murphy:
On the product side, it's absolutely HD Theater, but we're also aggressively promoting our digital networks.

On the programming side, we'll continue to promote the signature specials people have come to expect from us.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Murphy:
Consolidation. It has made operator negotiations more intense, but over time, I think it will make collaboration closer. We'll see marketing tailored more specifically to a particular MSO's goals.

Caroline Bock, senior vice president of marketing, Bravo and Independent Film Channel

MCN: What's your company's biggest marketing challenge for 2002?

Bock:
For Bravo, it's being all about smart entertainment, and going forward, launching two new series for the network —Breaking News
in July, and this fall, The Larry Sanders Show
is coming to Bravo. For IFC, it's all about working with our affiliates to leverage digital boxes and move cable modems.

MCN: What was your most successful marketing campaign so far this year?

Bock: For IFC, it's definitely been the Dinner for Five
campaign. It's brought fantastic results for the operators. The show really broke out.

MCN: What's your outlook for the industry for the rest of the year?

Bock:
On the programmer side, it's about breaking out in what really has become the 500-channel universe. There really has to remain a programmer-operator relationship. It's a challenge with the consolidation of the business.

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