Cable operators marketing high-speed Internet-connection
service are looking beyond simply stressing pure speed to sell cable modems and ahead to
leveraging sales of the service at retail outlets.
Time Warner Cable's Road Runner's latest national
acquisition campaign, in fact, is called "Beyond Speed," and it emphasizes the
services' local programming, constant connectivity and time and cost savings.
Bob Benya, senior vice president of marketing for Road
Runner, said focus groups in markets such as Portland, Maine, and San Diego showed that
while consumers had a high awareness of the product and its speed, they wanted to know
more about it, and they needed to be convinced that it was a good value.
As a result, the campaign, scheduled to start this week,
builds on the company's previous "You Don't Have to Take It Anymore"
ads to pitch other benefits of a cable connection to the Internet.
Like its predecessor, "Beyond Speed" -- which
includes TV and radio spots, newspaper and magazine print ads, direct-mail and
point-of-purchase displays -- makes its point by poking fun at dial-up connections. In one
ad, a horrified adult watches helplessly as a child innocently picks up the phone just as
a lengthy download nears completion.
Richard Rasmus, vice president of Comcast Corp.'s
Comcast Cable Online, agreed that cable operators need to employ other selling points for
cable modems besides speed.
Comcast, he said, had found that selling its @Home Network
service was "much more sales-intensive than we initially expected. We found that
there was no substitute for face-to-face exposure."
As a result, he said, Comcast is focusing on "driving
people to demonstrations" as much as possible.
Road Runner and Comcast@Home are also stepping up their
marketing efforts at the retail level and offering commissions to retail salespeople who
sell their services to customers.
Both companies are establishing alliances with local
computer and consumer-electronics retailers, and Benya said Road Runner will announce
several alliances with national chains by the end of the year.
Rasmus said Comcast already had arrangements with retailers
that install Ethernet cards and software for @Home when customers buy computers from them.
Benya said Road Runner is employing a series of marketing
workshops around the country, which include sales-training and motivational programs for
retail salesmen, as well as for customer-service representatives and technicians at local
systems, who will also be given commissions if they sell Road Runner.
Cable modems manufactured under Cable Television
Laboratories Inc.'s DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service/Interoperability Specification)
open standard, which can be used anywhere in the country, will hit retail shelves by late
this year or early next year, the executives said. "It will have a huge impact on the
business," Rasmus added.
While Benya and Rasmus felt that cable operators had to
worry about competition from phone companies for Internet access, neither thought that
cable faced an immediate threat.
Benya was concerned that phone companies claiming to offer
high-speed service would cause "confusion in the marketplace." Consequently, he
warned, MSOs need to pursue aggressive marketing, using direct-broadcast satellite
services' marketing campaigns as a model.
Rasmus said the phone companies' failure to provide
ISDN (integrated services digital network) service at an affordable price saddled them
with a "real liability to overcome." What's more, he argued, cable's
initial success as a high-speed-data provider for the "most influential"
personal computer users has made it "very difficult to be dislodged by a second
Rasmus recently replaced Roger Keating as Comcast's
top online executive. Keating left the company to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.