Timely Disaster Advice — Plus VOD Ads

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Hurricane season is blowing new local ad-sales revenue to several Comcast Corp. systems, which are collecting money from advertisers in exchange for letting them provide subscribers with on-demand advice on how to prepare for the storms.

Earlier this month, Comcast systems in the hurricane belt added a “Hurricane On Demand” section to their free video-on-demand offerings. The clips, which run from 90 seconds to four minutes, range from a car dealer giving tips on how to prepare for an evacuation to home builders discussing how to rebuild if a major storm destroys dwellings.

ADVERTISERS GIVE INFO

“The advertiser gets to give advice relative to their product,” said Jason Kriss, area promotions manager at the Charleston, S.C.-based Comcast Spotlight ad-sales operation, who came up with the idea. “I think this is a great way to help get information out to the public, and hit as many people as possible.”

Kriss recruited The Weather Channel to help with the project. Anchor Jim Cantore introduces the video segments, telling viewers: “Be prepared. It can make all the difference.”

Comcast also launched a Web site (www.hurricaneondemand.com), which allows customers to track hurricanes. But Kriss said Comcast won't offer on-demand hurricane tracking content to digital-cable subscribers, noting that the VOD clips are only designed to help viewers prepare for hurricanes and their aftermath.

While Comcast and other cable operators are adding hundreds of hours of VOD content to their platforms each month, the medium hasn't been a big source of ad revenue. Comcast's Hurricane On Demand content will see the MSO boost local ad revenue without the use of any traditional 30-second spots.

Incorporating advertising into informational content is a strategy The Weather Channel has relied on for years. The network runs how-to segments on lawn care sponsored by The Scotts Co., while West Marine sponsors segments on boating safety.

Comcast systems running the Hurricane On Demand content include Charleston; Dothan, Ala.; Savannah and Valdosta, Ga.; and Panama City, Sebring, Sarasota, Port Charlotte, Miami and Naples/Fort Myers, Fla.

In Charleston, advertisers paying to give viewers hurricane advice include Ryland Homes, Summerville Ford, Wholesale Appliance Center, Roper St. Francis Healthcare, The Charleston Angler, Paul Meadow Hardwood Floors, Muhler Windows and State Farm Insurance.

SUPPLANTS PRINT GUIDES

In previous years, Comcast Corp. supplied subscribers with printed hurricane guides, directing viewers to the stores of local advertisers to pick up the materials.

The MSO is also running Hurricane On Demand content on local-origination channels on systems in the hurricane belt, which will allow the clips to reach analog subscribers that don't have access to VOD.

TWC manager of affiliate ad sales Brent Brackin said the network didn't charge Comcast for allowing the company to use Cantore to promote Hurricane On Demand. TWC would be open to the idea of helping other cable operators promote projects similar to sponsored hurricane VOD segments, Brackin added.

TWC has also run a local affiliate ad-sales effort called “Project Safe Side” since 1997. The network supplies affiliates with cross-channel spots on natural disasters such as tornadoes and floods, allowing the operator to sell a tag to local advertisers.

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