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Poised to Grow in Midwest City

Jan 10, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Sharon Edry

Special to TelevisionWeek

As the 25th-largest cable market in the country and the one with the highest concentration of television sports watchers per capita, Indianapolis offers an excellent base to continue to grow cable ad sales, according to executives at Comcast, the city’s largest provider.

It is the auto racing capital of the world, the headquarters of the NCAA and home of the NFL’s Super Bowl-contending Colts and the headquarters of drug manufacturer Eli Lilly. Boasting a growing economy and a 33-county designated market area, the city is a typical Midwestern market, with large rural areas surrounding its highly populated sections.

“It’s a growing market with industry looking to move in, as well as being known as a sports mecca,” said Phil Paligraf, VP and general manager of Comcast in the central Midwest. “We have 43 different networks and a variety of packages we can offer our clients, and reach the people that count.”

The area’s 33 counties are quite a few for a DMA. With many outlying rural counties, there isn’t the deep cable penetration that exists in some markets, but the vast majority of the population that advertisers want to reach is located in metropolitan counties.

Comcast holds about 50 percent of the market and 258,000 households, competing with Insight Communications, Bright House Networks and Rutter Communications, Mr. Paligraf said. But through an interconnect partnership put together in May 2002 called Spotlight Indianapolis, Comcast takes charge of all four companies’ regional and national cable ad sales and a majority of local ad sales. (Insight and Rutter do their own local sales in some rural areas.)

“It provides one-stop shopping for clients within our DMA,” Mr. Paligraf said. “They can just do one buy, one invoice, instead of buying four times to run one spot.”

Last year was big for Comcast in Indianapolis. The company rolled out two big initiatives: Vehix.com, an automotive Web site that generates leads for its auto advertisers, and Adtag/Adcopy, which offers clients increased flexibility and targetability by allowing a commercial to be broken down into 32 zones and aired only where desired or with a local tag.

“We wanted to broaden our product line-it’s all about offering our clients more value for their advertising dollar,” Mr. Paligraf said. “The great thing about Vehix.com is that we own 43 networks where we can promote the site for subscribers, and Adtag and Adcopy enable clients to be more efficient.”

In 2005, Mr. Paligraf said, he hopes to continue the education process regarding both Vehix, which currently has 11 auto-dealer clients, and Adtag/Adcopy. “These are different concepts and we need to continue to explain how they work and how they can boost business,” he said.

Further improving customer service is the company’s other big goal for the coming year. “We need to take care of the clients that we have and decide how we can do that even better, to make sure that we are their marketing resource when it comes to advertising,” he said.

As for the tantalizing possibility that the Colts make it to the Super Bowl on Feb. 6, Mr. Paligraf said he hopes so, but not for Comcast’s sake. The team’s trademark is highly protected, he said, and Comcast won’t be able to do any promotions with advertisers if the team heads to the big game.