By Allison J. Waldman
Special to TelevisionWeek
Success and the Longhorns have gone hand in hand in 2006. The University of Texas Longhorns football team won the national championship, and BEVOD, the Longhorn sports on-demand service created by Time Warner Cable in Austin, has been a big winner with subscribers. At the CTAM Summit in Boston, will present the particulars of its award-winning marketing campaign.
An on-demand service based solely on the sports programs of one university was a risky proposition, but UT sports fans are deeply passionate. They were ready for this kind of programming.
“I don’t know if there are other areas as fanatical as here in Texas, but it’s an idea that can work in other places, too,” said Lidia Agraz, VP of public affairs for Time Warner Cable in Austin. “The idea actually came from our president, Tom Kinney. He wanted to really increase the partnership we have with the state university. UT is a huge school, one of the largest in the country, and it’s such a major part of the Central Texas area. We became the official provider of cable for all of their athletic facilities and got involved with the sponsorship of the athletics.”
Time Warner was in the process of launching on-demand programming, and “Tom had the idea of a channel that would feature Texas Longhorn programming because the university had a huge library of games that had been preserved on video,” Ms. Agraz said. “It took some convincing; the university had never done anything like this.” The company named the service in honor of Bevo, the Longhorns mascot.
To promote the new service, Time Warner enlisted the services of Longhorns head football coach Mack Brown. “That was one of our biggest coups. We had a press conference at the stadium and Coach Brown appeared,” Ms. Agraz said. “He’s a celebrity in the area so we had a lot of media attention that day and that was very, very helpful. We also cross-promoted the information about on-demand through all the vehicles we have: cross-channel promotions, cable suppliers and at the games-not just football, but all the other games too.”
Securing rights for broadcast was a major concern. “To circumvent some of the problems of rights, we sent our own camera crews to games so that we could show things that we had filmed,” Ms. Agraz said.
Time Warner has also benefited from its Austin-based 24-hour news station. “They have helped us with a lot of the content,” Ms. Agraz said. “But what is really incredible is that people are interested in looking at games from years ago. Just to give you an idea, when Texas won the national championship the university had a huge celebration here in Austin, and our news site recorded the whole thing and then we placed it on the channel-on-demand. That show alone had 2,000 hits.”
Winning the college football national championship helped in its launch. “In the next couple of months, we got 2,000 subscribers,” Ms. Agraz said. “Of course, one of the difficulties we have is what to do in the off-season. It’s so intense during football season. For us to keep that going and to keep the promotion working, we have to refresh the content continuously. We sponsored the spring football jamboree, and that’s a way to really get geared up for the season. There are families that travel here just to see that, so we used events like that and included them in our package of programming.”
Time Warner also has exclusivity with BEVOD. “This is cable-only-we own it. We’re not selling it right now; we’re making it available to other Time Warner divisions in Texas, ” Ms. Agraz said.
The future looks rosy for on-demand. “Anyone that uses on-demand can’t go back to the regular way of watching,” Ms. Agraz said. “I’ve had so many people tell me that they love it. They like being able to watch it when they want to. It’s just a major convenience.”