Panasonic, MSOs Team to Tout HDTV

NEW YORK In an effort to curb satellite-subscription growth rates, a host of top cable companies along with Panasonic have teamed up to promote the benefits of high-definition TV on cable.

The campaign, slated to run from July 1 through the end of August, is part of the national “OnlyCableCan” initiative. It highlights Panasonic’s lineup of HDTV sets and offers consumers $100 off their digital cable service if they purchase Panasonic HDTV sets during that period. Hoping to take advantage of the timing of this summer’s Olympic Games, the companies are launching TV and print ads that rely heavily on the idea of enhanced viewing of the Olympics on HDTV.

Advertising for the campaign, which was produced jointly in-house by the electronics maker and members of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, includes a substantial cable-network buy and print in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, along with a heavy Internet component and point-of-purchase advertising at major retailers that include Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears. Sources estimated the adspend at $10 million-plus.

A TV spot is tagged with local cable and retail dealer information, using lines such as “This summer, get closer than ever to the Olympics” and “Make it a hi-def summer.”

While NBC Universal has awarded Sony the exclusive advertising rights for the Olympics (among electronics makers), the cable MSOs will be able to promote HDTV leading up to the games, in the hopes of providing consumers with the chance to purchase and set up systems with various operators before the event.

According to Andy Addis, svp of marketing and new products at Comcast Cable, which is participating in the project, the advantages of such a deal offer MSOs the opportunity to promote services such as video on demand, local HD and the best value of cable versus satellite. “We’re highly committed to the functionality of the transition to HDTV,” said Addis. “Step one is capturing the consumer’s imagination, and step two is educating consumers who are getting the service.”

Likewise, Brian Kelly of Time Warner Cable, which has some 300,000 HD subscribers out of a total of 11 million on its cable systems, said it is important not to view this effort in isolation but as a broad partnership within the industry in terms of the fastest-growing new products, platforms and their advantages with respect to HD. Kelly anticipated that through the holidays, Time Warner’s HD subscribers would easily exceed 500,000.