Getting advertisers to buy space on interactive program guides has historically been a tough pitch, but Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. said it is finding some success in selling cable programmers tune-in spots on its latest IPG.
Home Box Office, ESPN, The History Channel, Paramount Studios, Starz Encore Group and Universal Pay-Per-View have bought banner ads on Gemstar’s new IPG, the “i-Guide,” which allows subscribers to link directly from the ads to the content pitched in the spots, including video-on-demand movies or linear channels.
If a programmer runs an ad on the IPG for an upcoming show, subscribers can also easily set their digital video recorders to tape the program, said Todd Walker, general manager of advanced TV at Gemstar’s TV Guide Television Group.
Gemstar recently conducted a study with one of its cable advertisers premiering a new series to gauge the effectiveness of running ads on i-Guide. Walker said the network found Nielsen Media Research ratings for the program were 46% higher in the market that ran an ad for the show on i-Guide.
The IPG company shares the ad revenue it generates from the guide with its affiliates, according to Walker.
Bright House Networks and Canadian MSO Shaw Communications Inc. recently deployed i-Guide, and Comcast Corp., which has been testing it, is expected to commercially deploy the IPG soon.
Amy Bates, senior vice president of TV Guide affiliate marketing, said Gemstar expects to announce new distribution agreements for i-Guide in coming months.
Compared to the “tan guide” distributed by most Gemstar IPG affiliates, the “i-Guide” offers one-touch access to video-on-demand and digital video recorder content, improved search functionality and the ability for subscribers to access on-demand content directly from a linear channel.
Gemstar’s tan guide contains two static advertising panels that it has sold in the past to traditional advertisers, in addition to using the spots to promote its own products, such as merchandise from its Sky Mall subsidiary. But Walker said Gemstar executives have decided for at least the next six months to limit advertising on the i-Guide to television program promotions.
“It’s a much more valuable buy for the program-promotion advertisers,” Walker said.
Clients that run banner ads on the i-Guide get space on the guide for one to two hours preceding the start of the program that’s being promoted, Walker said. If no ad is sold for a particular time slot, Gemstar will expand the program grid on the i-Guide, temporarily eliminating the banner ad position, Walker noted.
While cable operators devote the bulk of their cross-channel commercial inventory to local ad sales and promoting their own products, Gemstar hopes MSOs will also use some of that inventory to run the two new 30-second spots that it created to explain the IPG.
Gemstar is also sending affiliates turnkey marketing kits that contain a “quick reference guide” that operators can send to digital-cable customers, as well as a training manual for customer-service representatives.
The materials walk operators through a 90-day IPG rollout period, Bates said. Gemstar recommends that operators begin running spots two weeks before they roll out i-Guide alerting viewers to the new IPG’s imminent arrival.