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Cable MSOs, Panasonic Launch HDTV Blitz

New York — Moving to the next leg of their HDTV promotional efforts, 10 major cable TV multi-system operators (MSOs) and television manufacturer Panasonic announced a joint advertising effort anchored to the summer Olympics.

The campaign, which carries the joint slogans — “Make It A Panasonic Hi-Def Summer — Only Cable Can” — will run July 1 thru Aug. 31, 2004, and will employ broadcast and cable television, print ads and in-store promotional materials.

Under the program, a consumer who purchases a Panasonic HDTV during the promotion period and signs up for digital cable or upgrades to HD-cable service, will be eligible for a $100 credit on their HDTV service.

Participating cable MSOs include Adelphia Communications, Bright House Networks, Cable One, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, Insight Communications, Mediacom Communications and Time Warner Cable.

Cable operators that provide HDTV services will carry the high-definition coverage of the Olympics broadcast by local NBC affiliates across the country on their digital service platforms.

The MSOs and Panasonic will pool resources on a media by that will include both broadcast and cable ads for Panasonic HDTVs.

The cable operators will use the promotion to play up the benefits of high-definition television, while pointing out that only cable, not rival satellite–multi-channel services, will carry the Olympics in high-definition this year.

As of press time, a consumer’s only alternative to cable in viewing high-definition coverage of the Olympics this summer is via terrestrial broadcasts, which can require the placement of large roof-top antennas in many areas, the cable operators pointed out.

Panasonic set purchasers will be given a coupon for the cable credit through point-of-purchase advertising and on forms attached to retail sales receipts.

Key retail partners include the following: Best Buy, Circuit City, Sears, CompUSA, Tweeter, Ultimate Electronics, Fry’s, H.H. Gregg, BrandsMart USA, Electronics Expo, P.C. Richard and Son, Magnolia Audio/Video, R.C. Willey, Rex Stores, Bernie’s, Sixth Ave. Electronics, Abt, American, J&R and Howard’s

As with a spring HDTV-on-cable media blitz waged by cable MSOs and then-partner Samsung around the March Madness basketball tournaments, the new effort is designed to heighten consumer awareness to the benefits of high-definition TV. The advertising was not designed to play up the availability of new digital-cable-ready HDTV sets that will start coming to market this year.

Panasonic was the first manufacturer to introduce HDTVs with built-in CableCARD slots late last year, and currently has one of the most extensive digital-cable-ready TV product lineups.

Gene Kelsey, Panasonic’s brand strategy group VP, said Panasonic will play up its CableCARD products through its own sales material — including Internet postings — but the focus of the “Make It A Panasonic HDTV Summer program” was limited to the high-definition message to avoid overwhelming audiences with too much information at one time.

Brian Kelly, Time Warner Cable’s marketing senior VP, and Andy Addis, Comcast’s marketing and new products senior VP, representing the 10 cable MSOs, said the effort is expected to thwart attempts by satellite providers to lure away cable customers.

Cable operators will rely heavily on their ability to offer all local terrestrial HDTV channels in market, in addition to standard HD fare carried by both cable and satellite companies.

The second-leg of the HDTV promotional campaign will carry an “eight-figure” budget that will exceed the $10 million spent by the MSOs and Samsung on the Spring initiative.

That event result in a significant uptick in the number of new cable customers and HDTV upgrades at key periods, Kelly said.

The cable operators would not quantify the level of success they use to measure their advertising efforts.