Cable gets slating at Monte Carlo seminar

Cable TV was savaged by Grey New York senior vice-president/director of national television Jon Mandel in his presentation on “the US experience” at TV95 in Monte Carlo last week.

Mandel said the UK should learn from basic mistakes made in the US more than six years ago.

“Cable very quickly went off its strategy of being niche,” he claimed.

Research showed viewers switching to cable services only after finding nothing of interest on network TV, and then staying for shorter lengths of time, he said. The average time spent with one of the big three networks is 27 minutes, he said. With cable it is nine minutes.

Nor did cable companies’ claim to attract better demographics through niche targeting hold true, he claimed. US viewers subscribing to packages of services bought into the concept of choice, not programmes, Mandel said.

“But even with greater choice, viewers don’t use it. They just want to know it is there.”

In the US, cable sliced the TV cake into smaller pieces, but did not offer anything additional sufficient to plug the gap. Now US networks are enjoying increased audiences after years of decline as they recognise the need to boost investment in programming.

Mandel’s comments were rebuffed by a number of UK cable representatives. UK Living/Gold sales director Nick Milligan said: “In the UK, people do subscribe for the programming.” And they watch them, too, he added.

Columnist, background TV95 pages 19-21

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