Time Warner Targets 'Cocoons' in L.A.

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Time Warner Cable's Los Angeles division last week broke a direct-mail channel and rate-consolidation campaign that offers up "400 reasons to stay at home this holiday."

That's a reference to the number of channels available to Time Warner subscribers who sign up — or upgrade their current service to digital — as of Dec. 27, said vice president of sales and marketing John Trierweiler.

Prior to the consolidation, each of Time Warner Cable's six area cable systems — in Los Angeles, Orange County, South Bay/Torrance, Canyon Country, the west San Fernando Valley and South Pasadena —offered from 70 to 100 channels, he said.

Time Warner recently merged the northern and southern portions of its regional operation into a single Los Angeles division. The aim of the new campaign is to consolidate and synchronize channel lineups in those regions for greater uniformity of scheduling. Trierweiler said it will become even more important in the near future, when the operator institutes a virtual call center.

Time Warner and its ad agency, Robertson Marketing, wrapped a hard-nosed objective — preventing direct-broadcast satellite providers from making inroads into Time Warner territory — into a warm-hearted campaign, Trierweiler said. The effort was inspired by consumer research that indicated there has been a "cocooning effect" since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, according to system director of marketing Dawn Callahan.

Said Robertson, "Folks want to stay home with their families." So the direct-mail brochure — the cover of which is decorated with a Christmas-tree ornament — took the form of an "inviting holiday greeting to customers."

The brochure detailed many benefits for new or upgraded Time Warner subscribers, including: an interactive program guide; scores of new general-market and ethnic-appeal networks; the shift of Disney Channel from premium to basic; multiple high-speed Internet service providers from which to choose (including America Online, EarthLink Inc. and Road Runner); video-on-demand services; and new online billing and payment options.

In addition, potential subscribers and upgrade prospects will be offered lower rates, as well as greater flexibility in building their own premium-channel packages, Trierweiler said.

The mailer tells consumers they can pay their monthly bill through an automatic debit of their checking, savings or credit-card account, or via credit card through the MSO's automated payment system. Come March, the copy adds: "You'll be able to view your bill and make a payment online through our new billing application, ePay."

The 400-channel mark is key in convincing consumers of the value of subscribing.

"The No. 1 factor is choice; people are always asking for choice — generally meaning more channels, more sports, more movies," said Trierweiler. Such channel capacity also "clearly sets us up as higher than satellite providers," he added.

The mailing delves into pricing. "We're lowering our digital [pricing], lowering some of our premium packages and lowering our premium and digital on additional outlets," he said.

Subscribers, for instance, can get all six premium packages for $29.95 a month (down $4); just one for $9.95 (down $1); or any five for $25.95 (down $4).

The system now offers a far-more-robust slate of ethnic-appeal networks and premium channels, the executive said.

The "Time Warner en Espanol" package, priced at $3.95 per month, includes more than 50 Spanish-language networks or Hispanic feeds of Anglo networks. A package of international channels is pegged at $11.95 a month.

In addition to Disney Channel, Time Warner will add four networks to its basic lineup, including The Golf Channel and Oxygen; and 13 networks to its "digital variety tier," among them National Geographic Channel, The Biography Channel, VH1 Classic, two Discovery Networks U.S. channels and a pair of Nickelodeon services.

The more than 75 premium channels include 36 Spanish-language feeds and 20 East Coast feeds of established networks.

TWC is also proffering 40 digital music audio channels and 40 pay-per-view channels, with video-on-demand due in "early 2002," the brochure notes.

Time Warner's direct-mail campaign also complements a broader "Because We Care" campaign that uses print, cross-channel spots and radio, Trierweiler said. That multimedia push focuses on the operator's ongoing efforts to improve in such areas as signal quality customer service.

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