Urban Markets Poised for Growth

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Cable operators and programmers that pay attention to the needs of large urban markets — with populations that tend to be younger and more ethnic than the U.S. at large — stand to significantly grow their digital-cable and broadband businesses.

That was the word from Horowitz Associates Inc. president Howard Horowitz, who outlined a consumer-research report during the company's recent "State of Cable and Broadband" forum here. Despite a weakened economy, consumers in urban markets are still demanding new entertainment services, he said.

At present, 34 percent of households already take digital cable or direct-broadcast satellite, said Horowitz, while another 22 percent of consumers said they're likely to get one or the other.

But because consumers are more concerned about their personal finances, he said, they're rethinking their spending priorities — and are more value-focused than ever.

To reach the roughly 90 million urban Americans, the cable industry must make sure it deploys new technologies in large cities, delivers content tailored toward the market and sends the right marketing messages, Horowitz said.

"Youth is a characterization of the new urban consumer," he said.

A taped survey of urban consumers produced by Surveys Unlimited showed one young Hispanic man complaining about the lack of Spanish programming targeted to the under-25 segment.

During a panel titled "Think Global/Act Urban," Telemundo Cable vice president of programming and production Yolanda Foster detailed how consumer research led to the creation of the company's Mun2 network.

'BE AUTHENTIC'

"One of the brand criteria we have is to be authentic," Foster said. That's why on much of Mun2's live programming, the young on-air talent switches from Spanish to English.

"With young Latinos, they don't always speak Spanish and they don't always speak English," Foster said.

Cox Communications Inc. senior vice president of marketing Joe Rooney said the MSO has found success with its TeleLatina digital cable tier. Cox's digital-cable penetration is also higher among African-American and Hispanic households, he said.

AT&T Broadband senior vice president of programming Allan Singer said that while most of the initial programming deals are made at the corporate level, the ultimate responsibility lies in the field.

"The best-run cable companies have historically been those that think global but act local — and if applicable, urban," Singer said. "Our competitor will have problems addressing real localism."

Singer said that good Hispanic programming could help increase digital-cable penetration because the market is under-served.

Time Warner Cable of New York City conducted research prior to its digital rollout, and found that 25 percent of the MSO's nonsubscriber base was Hispanic, and 10 percent was Asian, said senior vice president and general manager for Brooklyn and Queens Barbara Kelly.

That led the system to create a diverse digital lineup that includes several Hispanic channels, as well as networks devoted to Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Russian, French, Italian and Indian programming.

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