Time Warner Cable plans to kick off an aggressive high-definition programming promotion this week in partnership with Discovery HD Theater and Circuit City. With the backdrop of cable operators retrenching from subscriber defections to satellite, the promotion speaks to the need to be competitive head-to-head with satellite, especially on the HD front. It also emphasizes the value of competing on the retail floor, which satellite operators have dominated until the past year. That’s when cable operators began rolling out a retail presence.
As part of the promotion, Time Warner Cable will offer six months of free digital cable service and HD service when consumers buy a new HD set from any of the 130 Circuit City stores in the Time Warner footprint. Customers also will receive one of five different Discovery titles on DVD and a $50 Circuit City gift certificate, which can be used toward the purchase of the HD set.
The offer will be promoted in all Time Warner markets via cross-channel spots, with radio spots in Houston and Minneapolis, said Lauren Monks, director of MSO marketing, affiliates sales & marketing for Discovery Networks U.S. Paige Davis, host of TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” will voice the radio spots.
Discovery HD Theater will also use the stars of its popular “American Chopper” series, Paul Teutul Sr. and Paul Teutul Jr., in its marketing for the promotion. The show is carried on both Discovery Channel and Discovery HD Theater.
The promotion, called “Time for HD,” runs Nov. 6 through Dec. 4.
ESPN2 Plans Online Fan Vote
ESPN2 will let fans vote online in December on which of three college basketball games to send announcer Dick Vitale to call for the network when it launches its high-definition simulcast Jan. 6.
Bryan Burns, ESPN VP of strategic business planning and development, believes that over time nearly all programming will be in HD, including the majority of ESPN content. As part of its push, the online promotion is designed to get the fan more involved in the programming on ESPN2 HD.
Mr. Burns said ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD will be programmed in a complementary fashion for the HD viewer, meaning the networks won’t schedule HD telecasts against one another or compete for HD eyeballs. ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD will offer a total of 85 events in HD in the first 90 days of 2005 across both services, and a combined 300 events for the entire year. Mr. Burns said he has devised two schedules-one that includes professional hockey and one that does not.
While there are no distribution agreements in place yet for ESPN2 HD, Mr. Burns expects several to be lined up prior to launch.
Mr. Burns added that over time more of ESPN’s networks will offer HD simulcasts. The next likely options for ESPN networks in HD would be ESPNews or ESPN U, its new college sports network launching next year.