With the community playing an important role in people’s lives again, cable channels are learning the importance of local programming

A lot has been written in the past few months about the cable industry’s advertising campaign , with all eyes focused on the impact of the national marketing efforts. However, before too many fingers are pointed, what seems to be missing from the discussion of cable marketing is the story at a far more local level.

It is not enough to bang a drum about additional entertainment, telephony, the Internet, information services and video-on-demand. Too many possibilities and choices, without proper consumer education and courting, all too often lead to option paralysis – choosing not to choose.

Cable is in the unique position, through its ability to reach out and touch people locally, to make even the strongest of doubters “connection converts”. There is no question that there is evangelising to be done and it is increasingly being accomplished on a local level.

A recent study from by the Independent Television Commission reports that cable companies could do more to establish themselves as part of the local fabric and, although there is room for improvement, much is being done already. Westminster Cable in London is raising money for a local premature baby unit and sponsoring a hospice for young people; Telecential Communications in Hemel Hempstead has taken an orchestra around to schools to teach children to play and read music; Birmingham Cable has sponsored productions for local theatre; and Nynex has established technology learning centres in schools throughout its franchises.

Equally as important are the cooperative marketing campaigns orchestrated in local systems between the operators and programmers. Involvement in event programmes provides a marketing opportunity for operators to bring cable to life and to cement relationships with (potential) customers on a very human level.

In addition, working with programmers allows operators to inform the viewer of the specific products offered in a cable television package.

UK Gold recently completed a roadshow for its new TV quiz show Tellystack. Local cable systems supported the event through press, radio and competitions. Not only was this a high-profile activity, encouraging community participation, but it helped to improve the distant and often utility classification of product providers.

There are many examples of other channel/operator partnerships in local towns. CNN has an extensive Newsroom programme in place with schools and cable systems to bring the importance of news into the classroom; Nickelodeon and Nynex have a Kids off the Street initiative, and the Parliamentary Channel participates with the operators to provide schools with information on the role of Parliament.

Exciting things are happening as the industry learns the importance of establishing community links. Creative ideas are needed to develop a positive cable brand and the value of local marketing cannot be overlooked. As the world gets more complicated, the community is playing an important role in people’s lives and cable is getting switched on to the personal message.

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