Q&A: COCA’s Tim Olson

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Tim Olson is vice president of business sales for Central Oregon Cable Advertising, the sales division of BendBroadband. The sales unit’s coverage includes Bend, where the division is headquartered, as well as Edmond, Terrebonne, Black Butte Ranch & Sisters, Ore. A relationship with Crestview Cable Communications, allows COCA to insert ads on a select group of networks in Prineville and Madras, Ore. Before joining BendBroadband in 2005, he worked for Comcast Spotlight in Dallas and AT&T Media Services/TCI in Portland, Ore. where he was employed as the director of sales and general sales manager respectively. Olson recently conducted an electronic interview with K.C. Neel. An edited transcript follows:

Q: How has the slowed economy affected ad sales?

A: Clearly, the slowing economy has had a profound impact on the real estate market here in Bend, which was so pivotal in the region’s rapid growth. The ‘trickle down’ effect from that has impact at various service levels within local ad sales without doubt. That said, our sales year over year remain fairly strong and we attribute that to the investments we have made with our staff and our established value proposition with customers.

Q: If so, what are you doing to offset any drop offs?

A: Actually, churn as a percentage of our quarterly business has not changed from historical values and sales have not dropped year-to-date from 2007 levels. We have seen insertion growth offset by reduced sales on our proprietary real estate channel, however that was forecast in the budget process. We understand and appreciate that customers are looking very closely at controllable expenses in the wake of declining consumer confidence. In many instances, our best customers already made the tactical decision to cut expenses associated with advertising and marketing prior to the years start due to that very fact. We spent a considerable amount of time and effort last year anticipating this opportunity and quite simply have prepared as best we can for this challenging time by partnering with those same customers in the hopes of preserving our budgets.

Q: Has the election season sales kicked in yet and do you have big expectations for this year’s political sales?

A: Yes and Yes. The expectations are in line with our budget and as always, well received given some of the other challenges we are facing. Just as important, however, is our commitment to non-political advertisers who otherwise suffer during the political season due to the added pressures applied to inventory. Our plan was to strike a balance that affords both opportunities to contribute to COCA’s revenue objectives for the year, while not compromising either line of business.

Q: How do you differentiate Bend Broadband from the competition?

A: The television landscape here in Bend continues to evolve and, personally, I think that’s great. The more people we have in the marketplace talking about the fundamental strength of television as a medium, the better. Competitively, we align ourselves differently with our customers through a careful examination of their needs initially, followed by a strategic coupling of their local business message with the strength of the network or programming brand identity. The association of those two elements have been dramatic in terms of providing much better results for the customers investment.

Q: Are you doing anything with advanced advertising services ?

A: We are currently upgrading all of our local insertion to re-capture some of the migrating viewership associated with the growing number of HD channels. BendBroadband is currently one of the leading providers of HD programming in the country and this upgrade enables the flexibility to continue evaluating the entire programming landscape for our market’s unique demographics.

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