Rachel Dreyfus is the VP Marketing Intelligence at Time Warner Cable and currently leads all aspects of Time Warner Cable consumer research and competitive intelligence. Rachel is also Co-chair of 2010 CTAM Research Conference Committee and member of the CTAM Research Committee.
 
You’re a member of the CTAM Research Committee and congratulations, you have just been named the co-chair of the 2010 Research Conference Committee. Can you tell us about the work you’ve done on the committee and your plans for the Research Conference?
 
RD: Sure. I’ve been on the CTAM Research committee for about four years, since I joined Time Warner Cable. I’ve been very involved in the CTAM Nielsen “Three Screen” study where we’re looking at traditional use of video and how online video use may or may not be cannibalizing traditional TV viewing. From the MSO perspective, we are very interested in tracking that and religiously trying to figure out what the business model for the future will be as more and more content goes online. So I’m very involved in that study.
 
Yes, I was just named co-chair of the 2010 Research Conference. It will be in May [during Spring Cable Connection], so I hope to motivate everybody to attend it. I’m co-chairing with Karen Ramspacher from Fuse. We look forward to shaking up the conference, and making it compelling and actionable for everyone who attends.
 
Can you tell me anything that you discovered from the Three Screen study? Anything that surprised you? Anything that you found particularly noteworthy?
 
RD: The study was very interesting because they were tracking, fusing if you will, two different panels – panels of online viewers and consumers who were watching TV traditionally.
 
So Nielsen had these two panels, and they found that the top quintile [one fifth] of traditional TV viewers were also in the top quintile of online video viewers. So the finding was that the people who watch the most TV are the same people who watch the most online video. The conclusion therein was that there won’t be any cannibalization—at least there isn’t now—of traditional TV viewing from online viewing.
 
From the MSO perspective, we have a different point of view on that. As it becomes easier to find the online video, as it becomes better quality like HD, and as the user experience becomes more convenient, we’ll see more people jettison one for the other. So right now we’re just taking in all the different research on all these topics, synthesizing it, and coming up with a point of view and a strategy that will help us prepare and anticipate consumers’ future behaviors.
Rachel, what are you working on right now?
 
RD: I’m working on a lot of things right now simultaneously. But the most important thing for the year 2010 is going to be improving our customer experience. Our industry has talked about that for at least 20 years or more, but now with the competitive environment the way it is, our video market share challenged, and with the phone and Internet category slowing, we really need to focus on the customer experience.
 
So a lot of our research is focused on guiding our decisions in terms of what is important to the customer. What do we really need to do to provide a branded Time Warner Cable customer experience: make customers engage with our company—more a two-way relationship—not just send them a bill every month, but show them some love, show them some appreciation for their business, and in turn be known as the provider who deserves their business.
 
What would you say are the most dramatic changes in the industry in the past five years?
 
RD: In the past five years, social networking and blogging have overtaken almost any other Internet activity and they now encompass something like one in every eleven minutes of Internet activity time spent. I think that’s important because consumers are finding information from their own networks of friends more than they might from mass advertising or any other media.
 
What that does is it propels Internet ahead of TV as the most crucial service that you can’t live without. People are using these tools, getting their recommendations, and word of mouth is spreading. We need to find a way to capitalize on social networking in our company and in our industry, so we take advantage of the power that that has to offer us.
 
I don’t think anyone has cracked that nut yet, from a business perspective. It isn’t about forcing information at people or trying to be their friends. What I think will happen is that we’ll figure out the way to use social networking for consumer research purposes, for creating new ideas, passing new programming through the green light process and that sort of thing. And when we do, it will be a very powerful tool for our industry.
 
(Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Chair of the CTAM Research Committee and a research veteran. She can be reached at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com. Video segments of the full interview with Dreyfus are available for viewing here).

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