MSOs to Networks: Customize Your Promos


Just as McDonald's Corp. urges its patrons to "supersize" their food orders, MSOs are increasingly asking cable networks to "customize it" when it comes to sales promotion tie-ins.

AT&T Broadband, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable are among the MSOs most interested in moving away from the one-size-fits-all regimen for network promotions.

But Comedy Central vice president of affiliate ad sales Kurt Greves said organizing such linkups can be far more time-consuming and involve much more advance planning and coordination than evergreen promotions. He noted that it's important to have meetings with an MSO's various departments to arrive at "something with meat to it" that can be integrated across not just local sales, but marketing and other disciplines. "That's been our primary focus this year. Things are getting tough and operators need help," he said.

To that end, the network has developed for Comcast a tailored "Rants and Raves" promo featuring standup comic Lewis Black, a regular on the network's
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Last year Cox used the promotion to promote Cox Digital Cable and Cox@Home in eight of its markets.


Discovery Networks U.S. has long offered custom-fit programs to affiliates.

"Discovery Kids on Camera" concluded its fourth and final run last January, having garnered $7.8 million across 15 Cox markets — a 17 percent gain from the prior year — despite the soft ad market, Discovery Networks director of promotions Beth Meyer said.

Discovery's director of affiliate ad sales Mike Van Bergen said that shopping malls, movie theaters, restaurants, entertainment centers and even a minor-league baseball team were among the ad categories for "Camera."

Meyer said Cox will use The Learning Channel's Makeover Story
for its next customized promo tie-in.

Like "Camera," the TLC tour will involve a talent search and award the winner with an appearance on that show. The MSO will target salons, boutiques and apparel retailers for sale, she added. Cox officials were unavailable for comment.

This summer, Discovery will again offer local "Shark Week" tie-in opportunities. So far, 18 systems, reaching 19 million homes, have signed to participate in "Ship Off to Shark Week," starting July 21, Meyer said.

Meanwhile, Discovery is tailoring a "Swim with the Sharks" promotion for Time Warner CityCable in New York. That contest will be sponsored by Lexus, whose presence will be evident in taggable spots and other materials. The program will give away a trip to a San Diego attraction where winners can literally swim with sharks, Meyer said.


AT&T has been vigilant in seeking tailor-made network promotions over the past two years, said AT&T Media Services senior vice president Judi Heady.

AT&T's Cable Advertising of Metro Atlanta interconnect, for instance, earlier this spring got The Weather Channel to customize its off-the-shelf "Live By It Sweepstakes" for use by one of its accounts.

Ordinarily sweepstakes entries are generated at retail stores but since CAMA had booked local electric cooperative GreyStone Power Corp., CAMA and TWC came up with an alternative.

Cristina Tharin, who was CAMA marketing and promotion coordinator until she left the group last week, scanned the "Live By It Sweepstakes" materials and created an entry form combined with an ad detailing the grand prize: a warm-weather package including a picnic basket, picnic table and chairs. The entry form was then mailed with GreyStone's regular newsletter alongside its May billing statement. Customers could then return that form along with their payment, Tharin said.

"When you can be flexible with these promotions and suit them to the advertiser, you will have more success with them," said Tharin.

TWC said GreyStone has expressed interest in repeating the promotion this winter, with a prize including warm outerwear, a duffel bag and walkie-talkie, a network spokeswoman said last week.