When Betsy Lazar talks, cable listens. At the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau annual conference in May, General Motors’ executive director of advertising and marketing operations praised DriverTV, an on demand car showroom, although she had one large caveat. Lazar saluted DriverTV for notching more than 800,000 VOD views for GM brands since launching in November. That’s a great start, she said. Now she wants DriverTV to be localized with content from GM’s area marketing groups, including interactive "dealer locators" that will steer viewers to the closest GM dealer. DriverTV founder and CEO Jan Renner says he’s ready to do this. He gave us a peek under the hood at plans for the channel that is in more than 16 million cable homes in 43 of the top 50 markets. It boasts an average of 1.3 million consumers per month watching its three-minute-long "virtual showroom experiences" (VSEs) on Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Insight and Cablevision. By mid-2007 DriverTV will showcase some 300 car models sold in the U.S. Only exotic or ultra-luxury brands will be missing. By this fall the 200 most popular models will be up. In fact, Lazar’s wish-list items of local content and dealer locators are the basis for DriverTV, version 2.0, which includes a broadband portal (drivertv.com) launching in late September and new interactive features being developed using Navic technology. "Imagine clicking for a [price] quote…or [being] taken to a local dealer screen [to book a test drive] because you’ve entered your ZIP code," says Renner, whose production partner is @Radical.Media. Also in the works to meet operators’ local needs: "The local opportunities [for DriverTV] are a no-brainer," says Renner. "We’re doing everything we can to help with that." For its cable affiliates, DriverTV already makes VOD more attractive—its VSEs are shot in hi-def. "We are delighted to have DriverTV among our first ad-supported VOD offerings, particularly given consumers’ love for automobiles," says Larry Fischer, president, Time Warner Cable Media Sales. "DriverTV enables Time Warner Cable to help capture viewers as they migrate to VOD."

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Cable Pioneers Headed to Primetime

With the pandemic putting a kibosh on the annual Pioneers’ banquet, the 22-member class will be inducted via a ceremony carried on C-SPAN 3 Dec 4 at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

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