Social media is becoming a major focus for both cable operators and programmers as they seek to find ways to market and deliver content to consumers, said several cable executives during a marketing panel session Tuesday at the Cable Show.
Executives participating on the "Thoroughly Modern Marketing: CMOs On The State Of The Art" panel said that they're now devoting at least 25% of their business time thinking about how to utilize social media outlets like Facebook to reach out to their customers.
HBO executive vice president of consumer marketing and digital platforms Courteney Monroe said ithe programmer's ability to communicate with its consumers over the web and via Facebook was vital in getting feedback for its HBO GO online service. She added the product, which allows authenticated subscribers to access thousands of hours of HBO content via iPads, mobile phones and the web, is expected to launch on other platforms like Roku set-top boxes in third quarter and video game platforms like Playstation 3 and XBOX 360 in fourth quarter.
"We've heard through social media that our subscribers love HBO Go, and that has real business implications for us because the more engaged our subscribers are the more they watch us, the less likely they are to churn," she said. "As a pay cable service, social media really represents the only direct communications channel we have with our consumer."
Warner Bros. Digital Distribution vice president of marketing, programming and acquisitions Michelle Edelman has taken its use of social media sites to the next level by offering downloads of Hollywood titles like The Dark Knight and The Matrix via its Facebook page. Facebook users can use their site credits to rent 11 Warner Bros. titles on various studio-owned sites.
"We don't think this is the end all and that everyone will start watching movies on Facebook, but they might start watching them here, and then buy it for the big screen," she said. "Social media outlets offer the greatest ROI than anyone can ask for because it was really just a post."
Univision integrates social media into the marketing of its on-air content -- including its popular novelas -- which has helped drive viewer audience and satisfaction for the network's content, according to Ruth Gaviria, senior vice president of corporate marketing for the Spanish-language media company. "If it's not core to our consumer marketing plan than we will not be satisfying our viewers," she said.
On the MSO side, Time Warner Cable executive vice president and CMO Sam Howe said the MSOs social media marketing outreach for its iPad app has helped the company generate 525,000 downloads to date. "I don't think we can underestimate its importance," he said.
Cox senior vice president of branding advertising and social media Joe Rooney added that the MSO has set up separate Facebook and Twitter sites for various systems such as Cox San Diego so that the MSO can directly talk to and address comments from customers via social media.
"We think it's very important for us going forward," Rooney said. "Today it's a channel to communicate the brand but tomorrow people are going to expect social media to be integrated into their viewing."