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Mall Program Drives Comcast Modems

Showing off broadband content in public places like shopping malls is driving new subscribers to cable-modem services.

Comcast Corp. is crediting demonstrations of Internet content tied to Discovery Channel's "Young Scientist Contest" that it ran at kiosks in 26 malls nationwide with a spike in new cable-modem subscribers. Senior director of affiliate relations Debbie Brodsky said the MSO saw a 13% increase in modem sales from its kiosk locations during the promotion last fall, as Comcast employees at malls used the Discovery content to tout its cable-modem service.

Discovery ran a broad affiliate promotion for its Young Scientist program, which it tied to the 100th anniversary of the first flight by the Wright brothers.

The network signed Ford Motor Co. to fund distribution of 15,000 kits that were sent to middle school teachers nationwide, which contained videotapes and a curriculum called "The Science of Flight."

Discovery ran the Young Scientist contest in October and November, sending the winner to the Aviation Challenge flight camp.

While MSOs such as Comcast and Cablevision Systems Corp. ran promotions around the contest aimed at boosting high-speed data subscribers, some Adelphia Communications Corp. and Charter Communications Inc. systems tied in local ad-sales components.

Discovery vice president of affiliate marketing Jodi Rubin said operators were asked to run 200 to 300 cross-channel spots per market to participate in the promotion.

The programmer also made $1,500 contributions to local schools on behalf of cable operators in 12 markets. Rubin wouldn't say how much money Discovery put behind the promotion, but she said it was "on par" with what it spends on other affiliate efforts throughout the year.

In addition to touting the Young Scientist content at mall kiosks, Comcast ran a paper airplane contest at Russell Conwell middle school in Philadelphia.

In St. Louis, Charter worked with Wydown Middle School on a "Science of Flight" curriculum. Students competed in a contest to build "futuristic flying machines," and Charter invited local officials to the final competition on Dec. 16, Discovery said.

In Phoenix, Cox Communications Inc. ran a similar promotion at Osborn Middle School. Discovery also gave the students a presentation of the "Wizards Apprentice Show" with Jake the Science Guy.

For its next promotion, Rubin said, Discovery would roll out its hot reality series American Chopper. The network is putting together a local ad-sales promotion for affiliates built around the series, spanning May 17 through June 30.