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Boom Time in Sin City

Oct 25, 2004  •  Post A Comment

By Sharon Edry

Special to TelevisionWeek

Local cable ad sales are growing steadily in the city of neon lights and fast money, said executives at Cox Communications, which services nearly 100 percent of cable-ready customers in the Las Vegas area.

That’s no real surprise in a town that, according to John Dalrymple, VP and general manager of Cox in Las Vegas, continues to grow by 3,000 to 5,000 people per month and where 58 percent of the total population arrived within the past 10 years.

As in most cities, there has been a general migration of viewers to cable programming in the past several years. This is particularly true in a melting pot like Las Vegas, where new residents have little loyalty to established broadcast stations.

Las Vegas may be the 51st-largest designated market area, but it ranks 31st in terms of advertising revenue spent in the marketplace, Mr. Dalrymple said.

With its high cable penetration-nearly 70 percent of the area’s 600,000 households subscribe, according to Mr. Dalrymple-Las Vegas is in some ways one of the strongest cable markets in the nation.

“When I sell nationally I have the opportunity to talk with my counterparts at Time Warner, Comcast and others,” said Cox’s National Sales Manager Joe Ayson. “And Las Vegas is really an uncanny market in terms of ratings.” For example, Mr. Ayson said, FX’s “Nip/Tuck” consistently gets enough viewers in Las Vegas to rank the city among the show’s top five to 10 DMAs nationally.

Las Vegas is truly a 24/7 town, with 40 percent of its marketplace in the hospitality industry working multiple shifts, Mr. Ayson said. As a result, traditional viewing habits don’t necessarily apply. And by offering a 24-hour local news channel as well as other day/night news channels, Cox said its ad buyers can reach viewers at all times.

Climate issues play a part as well. In the summer, temperatures are often above 100 degrees, forcing locals to stay indoors-and watch TV, which keeps ratings high, where in other cities, viewer levels drop sharply during the summer months.

Las Vegas is a city constantly outgrowing its boundaries, with new developments and communities springing up all the time. “We’re fortunate that our system grows with the growth of the market,” Mr. Dalrymple said. “It’s not like other cities that have to retrofit themselves for cable.”

The main challenge in terms of cable ad sales is educating potential advertisers about the viewer increases. “Our effort relates to the idea of getting the media community here to catch up to the audience,” Mr. Dalrymple said.

Cox put together a specific initiative, called Reach and Ratings, last year to address this issue in the form of direct mail pieces and face-to-face presentations to media buyers, business leaders and national media companies.

“Reach and Ratings helps us educate the marketplace and match advertisers up with viewers,” said Shelley Judkins, Cox Communications’ general sales manager in Las Vegas. “The viewership migration has happened so quickly that many buyers had not been made aware of that accelerated growth,” she said.

Mr. Dalrymple declined to give specific numbers on the Reach and Ratings initiative, but said that every dollar spent has resulted in a 20-to-1 return on the investment.

Aside from the growing viewership and high ratings, additional audience delivery options are incentives unique to Las Vegas. For example, “Visitor Vision” can insert commercials from eight to 12 different networks right into casino hotel rooms. With 38 million people visiting Las Vegas every year, Mr. Dalrymple said, that can mean substantial additional reach, unmeasured by Nielsen ratings.

As Cox Communications moves toward 2005, continuing to increase advertiser awareness is key, Mr. Dalrymple said, adding that the Reach and Ratings initiative will continue through next year.