Achieving Success With Broadband

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In the almost 16 years I have been involved in the cable and satellite industry, I have never seen the kind of turmoil that is taking place. If there is any good news, and there is, I would have to say that opportunity exists everywhere.


And "opportunity" was part of the name of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing show I attended in October: the CTAM Broadband Opportunity Conference, held in Santa Clara, CA. The conference was the first broadband-focused show hosted by CTAM.


The following are key questions from the show:


• How do you make money?


• How do you retain or grow your market share?


• What do you do to keep the Internet and other competitors from taking your television viewers?


Familiar solutions. The most important question being asked by cable operators and programmers is, with all of this new technology, how do you make money?


When the dust settles, the answer is, the same way you have in the past. Cable operators and programmers will review products and opportunities, form alliances and, right or wrong, they will deploy their services. Success, i.e., profitability, will depend on how effectively you market and advertise new products and services.


What's important now is that those in the industry are clearly asking for direction, but that shouldn't be too surprising given the complexity of the new products being deployed.


New tools for new problems. Retaining or growing market share will be a challenge, according to a panelist at the conference. In his presentation he said that he sees broadband offering new choices for the television viewer, but he didn't think that the viewer was going to watch more television.


The outcome is obvious, but let's do the math anyway: More content with the same number of viewers means fewer eyeballs on each program. So promoting a television show just got more expensive per viewer.


The challenge for both advertising and marketing agencies is that they will have to learn about the new technology associated with this phenomenon and develop a strategy that allows them to more efficiently promote a television program. The tools to accomplish this do exist, and tool is the key word.


The Internet provides access to server-based intelligence -- databases -- and this allows for the capability to direct market or target your advertisement more effectively. In addition, server-based applications have been developed that can be combined with Internet advertising techniques to allow television broadcasters to more effectively target market to their viewer base.


The secret sauce of advertising on the Net. What I envision for advertising and marketing agencies is a new flexible prototype style of marketing and advertising where multiple, simultaneous campaigns can be developed and tested to identify the most effective ads. The advertising campaigns can be monitored and replaced or phased out quickly, thus making the campaigns more effective and responsive to market changes -- a sort of "smart advertising."


The ability to make quick and frequent changes that exists on the Internet is unlike print advertising, where once you go to press, the ad is unchangeable. Online ads can be modified almost instantly, more frequently and at a cheaper cost. This prototype smart advertising concept is the secret sauce that advertising and marketing agencies will have to develop and exploit to help television programmers stretch available advertising dollars.


Cannibalization. At the conference, television programmers talked about having to drive users from their current programs to their new programs or Web sites, in effect cannibalizing their current viewing base. It is thought that if programmers don't do this, they risk a competitor stealing users away with more enticing programming.


If you combine these new tools with the profiling capabilities that have been developed by companies like AdForce or DoubleClick, then effective measurable advertising is possible.


It's hard to say whether this type of advertising is more cost-effective than previous methods, but at least now the results can be accurately measured. Advertisers will know exactly how many ads were placed, where they were placed and when they were placed. Not to mention, who used them and how many of them were actually used to access a program.


In time, the cost of this new advertising medium will be driven down, but for now learning how to use it is what's important.


• Tom Romero is vice president of business development at Set-Top.com, San Diego. Reach him at tromero@set-top.com.
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