Page Thompson, VP, marketing, new video products

While Page Thompson may be the one stepping front and center to accept the Promax Brand Builders Award, he is loathe to be the only one getting the credit.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of people at Comcast who have made this product succeed,” says the cable giant’s VP of marketing, new video products, about video-on-demand (VOD). “From every tech in the field who demonstrates it, to the customer service representative who talks to the customers on the phone about the product, it should be a team award for everyone at Comcast.”

There is little denying the success Thompson has overseen with respect to Comcast’s VOD offering. The operator delivers thousands of hours of free VOD content to viewers every month—more than 100 million views in March alone. That is a long way from what was a brand-new offering only 30 months ago.

“In the early days, VOD was perceived as another vehicle for transactional business with the customer, offering movies and other pay services,” Thompson explains. Comcast turned that around. “The main thing we’ve done was focus on offering hundreds of hours of free content.”

Comcast went a different way, basing its model loosely on what happened in the first wild years of the Internet. Consumers wanted free content. Comcast saw that and decided to get users comfortable with the interaction and experience of the convenience of VOD without paying for it. The payoff came later: Buy rates went up 63% after Comcast began offering free VOD, too. “We now have the highest buy rates ever seen,” says Thompson.

Comcast has undertaken an intense marketing blitz that makes customers well aware that free VOD is available and of where to find it (at channel 1). First there are barker videos, produced by E! Entertainment, which look to bring viewers into the VOD area. That is complemented by commercials tailored for a number of audiences—everything from sports fans to parents. Comcast also blasts 1.5 million e-mails each month to viewers who opt-in for VOD updates, and sends out hundreds of thousands of pieces of direct mail.

“From day one, we invested money into building a VOD presence,” says Thompson. “That takes three things: first, let the viewer know VOD is available; second, let them know it’s free; and third, let them know where to go.

“When I had an opportunity to come here and back to Philadelphia, I was very excited,” adds the 1983 Princeton grad (with an M.B.A. from Harvard), who was born and raised in the City of Brotherly Love and today lives seven blocks from his parents.

To help build Comcast’s VOD service into a brand, Thompson drew on skills he learned while working at Pepsi and General Cinemas, where he was VP of marketing. But he isn’t bragging. He says, “This award is really a recognition of the people at Comcast who have taken VOD from being a theoretical idea to an exciting part of something that changes the way people watch television.”