By Elizabeth Jensen
Special to TelevisionWeek
Time Warner’s Lincoln, Neb., cable system was offering a package of free on-demand channels but customers just weren’t taking advantage of the offerings, which the system attributed to apprehensiveness over the technology. Oxygen’s Air Karaoke, which promises to turn a customer’s TV set into a “karaoke jukebox,” proved to be one answer that enticed some experimentation with the channels.
With more than 80 songs-from a Nancy Sinatra-style “These Boots Are Made for Walking” to Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”-Air Karaoke launched Oct. 7, 2005 on Oxygen on Demand. Network executives said they quickly heard from Time Warner Lincoln, which had noticed “a huge bump in usage numbers,” said Jennifer Chastain, national account manager for Oxygen. “So we started brainstorming” on ways to use Air Karaoke’s interactivity to promote both the sing-along programming [each song is preceded by a brief promotion for a show on Oxygen’s linear cable network] and Time Warner Lincoln’s free on-demand channels.
The solution was the Watch to Win sweepstakes. From Dec. 1 through 31, anyone who streamed a song from Air Karaoke-including seasonal holiday favorites such as “The Twelve Days of Christmas”-would be automatically entered to win. Participants could enter the contest more than once. Promotion for the contest included 523 cross-channel spots, valued at nearly $16,000; an online microsite; banners on the cable system’s Web site and two e-mail mailings to Time Warner Lincoln’s digital subscribers.
“It was amazing how much their usage increased,” Ms. Chastain said.
During the contest month, Oxygen on Demand plays increased by 400 percent over November numbers, from 6,233 plays to 31,050. Oxygen on Demand climbed from the 15th-most-popular free on-demand network on the Lincoln system to No. 2, with shows such as “Oh! Baby” and “Oh! So Busted” getting greatly increased viewing. As a division, Time Warner Lincoln recorded its third-best week on record for aggregated free on-demand plays. And compared with November, free on-demand usage among unique users increased 23 percent.
The promotion got “people with a fear of their remotes clicking around,” Ms. Chastain said. Oxygen saw higher usage of its karaoke site in Lincoln for some time afterward.
Air Karaoke has turned out to be a popular way to familiarize viewers with Oxygen on Demand programming elsewhere as well. Oxygen has created an Air Karaoke Challenge that it takes to malls and other spaces that hold large crowds. The competition “encourages people to use it right there,” demystifying the process further, Ms. Chastain said. “The most important thing with Air Karaoke is that we can really help educate customers,” she said.