Direct Digital Marketing and Cable's 3 Screens

Bryce MarshallThe annual CTAM (Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing) Summit wrapped this week. A central theme of the CTAM Summit is the discussion of the "TV Everywhere" concept. TV - in its current definition - has to adapt. Competition from the Web - where video content is available anytime through Hulu, YouTube, and thousands of other sources - is creating a fragmented media universe and cuts into the recurring monthly subscription revenue that cable operators have found so profitable for many years.

Cable providers are in a rush to figure out the logistics of making programs available to customers not just through TV but also through computers and mobile devices. The idea is to create the same wealth of content customers receive for their monthly cable expenses, but make it available across all three of the screens customers use most. The goal is a completely channel-neutral content accessibility strategy.

The potential user experience is compelling, but the consumer will not patiently wait – the development of this experience has to be a top priority. A generation of consumers under 18 already spends more time with Hulu, YouTube, and their iPhones than they do with a TV. The cable TV brands we know well are virtually meaningless to this generation. The youngest consumers will not look to or accept content from brands with which they have no association.

With a shift in the logistics of content delivery inevitable the consumer needs time to adjust their perceptions about how a cable company delivers content. The average consumer does not associate Time Warner Cable or Comcast with “online episodes of How I Met Your Mother or Deadliest Catch.”

Bottom line, the general consumer needs to undergo behavior modification. The cable companies need to build awareness, create smooth transitions from one screen to the other, and guide customers to adoption. Pointing customers to the right content at the right time manufactures the ideal customer experience.

The expansion of content availability provides one very distinct, potential opportunity: Customers must be logged in to access content. This enables a completely trackable media environment where each access point and interaction provides a wealth of data that is mined to identify behavior patterns and preferences, and then develop insights to create a more dynamic and user-friendly experience.

Direct digital marketing is essential to the behavior modification process. Direct digital communications are ideal because they allow marketers to focus on the three devices through which customers are consuming content: the computer, a mobile device, and even interactive TV.

Behavior modification is about creating opportunities for the customer to find, explore, experience, and embrace a new content and technology relationship. The flexibility to manage timely communications across digital channels is possible thanks to a wealth of customer data to drive segmentation, targeting, and event-triggered messaging.

Here are a few quick examples of how smart direct digital marketing strategies expedite the mass adoption of a trackable, user-friendly media experience:

  • Timely text messages remind a customer to view a favorite sports highlight show while waiting for a flight
  • Emails alert a customer that episodes of a favorite program are available for viewing online
  • Dynamic and interactive TV content promoting new Fall programs that appeal to a customer based on past viewing habits
  • Automated email or text messages remind customers of unwatched programs and movies on their DVR (hint: these should be sponsored!)

The current competitive and platform challenges for the cable operators are real. But the opportunities for a “TV Everywhere” concept to deepen relationships with subscribing customers are immense. Direct digital marketing plays a critical role in making the dream of a content-consuming utopia a reality.

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