You might think that Adelphia’s delay in launching high-definition services would hurt its HD business, putting it too far behind the rest of the industry. After all, by the time Adelphia began selling HD late last fall, the company’s satellite rivals already had a pretty good head start. As it turns out, Adelphia may have benefited from being late to the game. Competing HD marketing campaigns got the HD message out there, helping to pave the way for Adelphia’s own HD marketing efforts. Once the company completed system upgrades, it began an aggressive HD marketing campaign—and it didn’t have to start from scratch. "Our customers were chomping at the bit to subscribe to this service," says Rob Robb, VP, marketing communications, for the Denver-based operator. "We believe there was already a demand for the product in the market." This fervor allowed Adelphia to focus the first phase of its marketing campaign on one aspect of HD—its clarity and sharpness—rather than on educating customers on every single feature. Adelphia worked with Pittsburgh creative agency Giant Ideas, which developed funny cross-channel spots with the tagline "HDTV—it’s as real as it gets." Adelphia’s campaign is one of five finalists for a CTAM Mark Award in the advanced products and services marketing campaign category; the spots themselves garnered Giant Ideas a 2003 Telly Award. In one commercial, a woman feeding her pet bird leaves the cage open, giving the bird the opportunity to fly free. The bird looks at the open window, then at the TV set with its HD picture, and promptly tries to fly into the TV set. In the other spot, a man watching a boxing match starts couch-coaching—viewers see him yelling out taunts such as, "Is that as hard as you can hit?" After hearing "C’mon, my sister can hit harder than that," the boxer throws a punch through the TV at his tormentor. HDTV is a very real experience, Robb says, a point the company drives home in that ad with the help of special effects. It’s nice that Adelphia and its agency were recognized for the creative campaign, but did they actually help sell hi-def service, the company’s ultimate goal? Adelphia won’t disclose specific numbers, but Cathy Fogler, VP, video product management, says the company is thrilled with the results it is seeing from a subscriber growth perspective. "We believe the marketing communications effort played a strong part in that." Now that the message is out that HDTV is available in Adelphia’s markets, phase two of the MSO’s HD marketing plan is kicking in. In late June, the company launched a third spot highlighting the fact that viewers still have to sign up for HD service when they buy an HD-capable set. In a spot that made its debut last month, a young man has all his friends over to watch a big game in HD, but nobody is amazed by the picture when he turns it on. His friends’ response to the standard-def signal on the big new hi-def set? "You didn’t get HD service from Adelphia, did you?" On the Retail Front Complementing Adelphia’s promo spots is the company’s retail campaign; like other operators, Adelphia sees retail as a key component of its HD marketing strategy. As the company forges relationships with retailers on the local level, it is involved with efforts to jump-start national marketing efforts at the corporate level, such as the $10 million campaign tied to NBC’s Olympics coverage announced last month by Panasonic and 10 big cable operators. Adelphia’s cross-channel spots and retail efforts underscore how the cable industry is marketing HD—incorporating the tried and true methods of promotional spots and direct mail with crucial new elements such as retail. These days operators are working more closely with programmers to promote HD around major television events, while programmers, in turn, are spending more money to shoot promos in HD, beefing up online HD educational efforts and utilizing sister company resources to boost interest in the service. Programmers also are working directly with retailers. ESPN, for example, supplies Best Buy stores around the country with sevenminute clips of ESPN footage; the Best Buy clips are customized, but the programmer also provides a generic versions to other retailers, according to Jeff Siegel, SVP marketing. "Our goal is to be everywhere that sports fans are watching, listening, playing or interacting with the service—that really holds true at the retail level," Siegel says. As Showtime SVP marketing Geof Rochester notes, retail alliances typically vary by platform and affiliate, but there is no doubt that the retail front is important. Like other programmers, Showtime has begun working more with Premier Retail Network (PRN), which broadcasts in 5,000 retail locations, to get the HD message out. NBC is using Kelsey Grammer in PRN spots to educate consumers about HD—what it is and what they need to get it. In Demand also has a presence on PRN. Similarly, Showtime is using its series’ cast members to tout HD on PRN. "We’ll probably be aggressive using the cast of Huff! [Showtime’s new fall drama starring Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt and Blythe Danner] to promote HD," Rochester says. The shift in marketing tactics is not without challenges. One of the biggest challenges for cable operators working at the retail level is the DBS factor: Until now, retail has been dominated by satellite. HDTV, however, could be an opportunity to "change the rules of the game," Adelphia’s Fogler says. "We’re beginning to shift the momentum and beginning to shift the way that the retail business model has been played," she says. A Programmer’s Lagniappe ESPN wouldn’t be ESPN without all the little extras it can throw to affiliates to sweeten their offers, and Siegel and his marketing team are taking full advantage. As part of its 25th anniversary celebration, the network made 500,000 passbooks filled with $300 worth of coupons available to affiliates who can use them as acquisition perks. A national direct-mail campaign by Charter and ESPN resulted in 1,200 Charter customers upgrading to an HD tier that included ESPN HD—a 12.63% take rate, according to the network. Customers who signed up received an ESPN T-shirt; the network also thanked current Charter ESPN HD customers with three free issues of ESPN The Magazine. "We have all these different brand assets and businesses," Siegel says. They are all "ways that we can help leverage our brand with our operators." On a local basis, the network is giving operators "things you can’t get anywhere else," Siegel says, such as tours of ESPN, or sitting in on SportsCenter. ESPN uses two HD demo trucks that drive around to different markets or big local events. The trucks are a place cable operators can give away literature, show potential customers the service and educate them on equipment, content, pricing and availability. Things are heating up now for the selling season that will run from the end of summer through the holidays. Baseball will play a big part in promotions—and in new content that’s being produced. ESPN, Major League Baseball and Midco Cable TV in North Dakota joined forces to give away a trip to a Yankees-Red Sox game. In Demand, which has two HD networks that just reached the 1 million home milestone, committed to producing 100 hours of HD programming per month. Earlier in July it premiered Cathedrals of the Game, a 15-part series it produced in conjunction with MLB that gives a behind-the-scenes look at baseball stadiums. New CEO Rob Jacobson says another big package with another major sports league should be ready by this fall. The content itself is a huge selling point, Jacobson says. The fact that "most of our programming is available in an exclusive basis on our channels" is something cable can promote loudly. Showtime, which is focusing its HD efforts on boxing, movies, original series and events, is boosting its HD presence on the Internet. In addition to the educational FAQs it has on its own site, Showtime has begun paying to be listed in Internet searches for HDTV. That’s certainly not an industry first—both Cablevision’s Voom and Adelphia pop up among the first five sponsored links during a Google search for the term "HDTV." Marketing Costs Going Up? As more networks produce more content in HD, more of the promos will have to be shot in HD, and that ups the marketing budget. As Stacie Gray, VP and creative director at In Demand, pointed out at last month’s PROMAX conference, her network doesn’t even want any standard-def promos anymore—it almost denigrates the nature of the HD program you’re promoting, she said. But where will those additional dollars come from? Will the finance gurus who control a programmer’s purse strings ease up enough to make allowances for shooting promos in HD? For Alicia Scotti, director, new product marketing, at Showtime, the argument is clear: "It makes sense that if a product is in HD [the promo] should be shot in HD," she says. Fundamentally, it’s the kind of commitment you have to make, says Showtime’s Rochester. Still, with all the different business models out there—some operators charge only for the box, some for the service, some only for premium tiers—content providers will need to figure out where the incremental return on investment is coming from should they boost marketing budgets. Even as some high-definition marketing plans are shifting into high gear, another hurdle is on the horizon in the form of time-shifting. Although HD DVR boxes are just starting to be deployed, the time-shifting aspects of hi-def will have to be explained to consumers, which presents another challenge. As Rochester says, "That’s the next horizon—hi-def on demand."