The explosion of virally spread, user-generated content on the Internet was a recurring theme at CTAM Summit, with much head-scratching about what, if anything, it means for cable. Time Warner Cable EVP and CMO Sam Howe admitted at Wed’s closing general session that despite TWC’s efforts to find ways to capitalize on the trend, "we really haven’t come up with anything…You can’t intentionally make something happen virally." He noted that TWC’s earnings are better than ever, even as sites like YouTube supposedly rob eyeballs from traditional media. But producer Michael Davies said the "old media" players are looking at it all wrong; he argued that much user-generated content is directly tied to traditional brands (funny TV commercials, clips of popular shows, etc.). "I don’t see any difference anymore between content and marketing," he said. "There’s no separation with young people." He asked why, for example, NBC is trying to stop fans from sending around "Saturday Night Live" clips on YouTube when it could embrace a viral wave that’s organically promoting SNL to its core youth demo. Yahoo CMO Cammie Dunaway said content-packagers can also proactively involve customers in their campaigns, noting that Yahoo Personals got one female user to set up camp on an L.A. billboard and take dates with prospective mates (a stunt that got Yahoo two spots on "Good Morning America" and "huge" publicity overall, she said). Meanwhile, panelists said mobility remains a big growth area for cable. George Neill, corporate VP, global mktg, at Motorola, said the shift to mobile multimedia "is going to open up and explode in the near future… It multiplies your opportunity to connect with your customers." Then again, consumers can be hard to read. Howe said TWC’s research shows that for wireless consumers, the "number one thing on their minds" is also a decidedly low-tech subject: "The battery life."

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