Originally published: April 16, 2011
Last updated: April 16, 2011 - 5:30pm
Cross-channel promotion is nothing new in the still-strong cable and satellite TV distribution world. But channel-carriage promotion is another story.
With growing numbers of new bandwidth-hungry HD channels, where is the endgame? Comcast's recent takeover of NBC Universal has caused immediate changes as the company looks to boost carriage of its mid-size cable channels. One newly acquired Comcast channel is Universal Sports, a modest 60 million subscriber sports network with a mix of carriage via cable, local digital TV stations, IPTV and other distributors. For the most part, Universal Sports positions itself as an Olympic sport channel. Since Comcast's takeover, there has been heavy promotion to get Universal Sports better TV household distribution. DirecTV carries Versus, but not Universal Sports. Part of this marketing plan seems to be promoting Universal Sports on the better-distributed Versus. This type of on-air promotion isn't new. No doubt when ESPN or Discovery or others were in the throes of expanding their channel rosters, similar channel-carriage promotion activity arose. But lately there has been a notable shift - as many established cable network groups slow their traditional cable network launches while pushing more Internet sites or mobile apps for TV content. The massive Comcast takeover of NBC Universal has pushed the largest U.S. cable operator to find more traditional homes for its now larger channel, including some previously underserved NBC Universal networks. Other NBC micro-cable networks, Sleuth (soon to be called Cloo) and Chiller, will probably be getting the same marketing treatment, if they haven't done so already.
No doubt the days of gaining massive amounts of established cable or satellite consumers (IPTV operators have a different financial distribution position) are slowly ending. But Comcast still has obvious leverage -- and intends to use it, especially to monetize its big controlling investment in NBC. It needs to find whatever few channel positions are left as they still represent the potential biggest pool of TV advertising and consumer revenue.
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