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Ops Look to Guide VOD Marketing

Cable operators have started to make noise about marketing video-on-demand movies, with a focus on making better use of the interactive guide as a marketing tool.

"The interactive guide is the key," said Comcast Corp. senior vice president of new products Andy Addis during a panel session at last month's National Show. "That guide has to merchandise content. Without bringing movies to life, they just lie there."

In Demand and Cox Communications Inc. collaborated on a video-on-demand promotion in May, which produced an 80% increase on VOD movie buy rates above the previous six-month average, according to Cox Communications Inc. of San Diego vice president of marketing Art Reynolds, vice president, marketing.

"It was a nice lift," he said. "The question is will that be sustainable?"

The guide's graphical user interface (GUI) "has to be your store," said In Demand senior vice president of marketing Sergei Kuharsky. "We're trying to create some retail heat going in the door and that's just good business. And the end of the day the movie business is a retail driven business."

In May, Cox crafted a month-long promotion to heighten interest in VOD movies. The MSO held a sweepstakes competition in which the system gave away one 65-inch HDTV set each week in May. To enter, consumers went to Cox's interactive guide and selected the "watch and win" button.

At that point, consumers watched a movie trailer. Universal Studios supplied 8 Mile
and Red Dragon
trailers, while Warner Bros. supplied Harry Potter
and Ghost Ship. Once a consumer watched the trailer, they were entered automatically into the HDTV set sweepstakes.

The system also placed ads in TV Guide and positioned placards outside area video stores on weekend nights to tell people VOD was available. A local radio station joined the promotion and aided in a "crush-the-videotapes-under-a-steamroller" event in a parking lot to drive home the point that VOD was a better alternative than renting tapes.

In Demand's Kuharsky said the network is looking for similar opportunities to work with cable operators. "The bigger the titles are, the bigger the push," he said.

Since VOD is not deployed nationwide, In Demand's marketing efforts concentrate on local events.

"We have to go system by system. We're trying to make sure we communicate to movie lovers there is an easier and better way to rent movies," he said.