Optimum Online Launches New Ads

Cablevision’s Optimum Online unit is debuting a slate of new ads designed to expand its cable broadband business to new customers.

The effort aims to encourage average, multi-person households in the New York metropolitan area to trade up to broadband — since the firm expects that that’s the demographic from which the next major expansion in high-speed Internet access sales will come, with the “early adopter” market almost entirely sated.

In addition to rolling out new advertising efforts, Optimum Online also changed elements of its pricing structure, in an effort to make its services more appealing. For example, the company began offering a free cable modem while also abandoning its requirement of an annual contract.

Both changes are highlighted in the campaign’s two 30-second television ads. In one execution, “Refrigerator Repair,” a repairman tells a woman that a certain replacement part will run her $200. But after using Optimum Online to check the price on the Web, she’s able to see that his price was baloney.

A second execution, “1978,” shows a husband donning polyester, downloading disco music and boogieing after his wife departs on errands. (He’s caught in the act when she returns after leaving her keys.)

“Get your groove on with Optimum Online,” a voiceover says. “Call up, log on, stop by. Get a cable modem free to use, and no upfront costs.”

In addition to the TV spots, which will air locally on cable and broadcast networks, the company plans direct, online and retail promotions in connection with the campaign. Spending in the effort was not disclosed.

“The advertising … removes a lot of barriers to entry,” said Valerie Green, vice president of product strategy for Optimum Online. “We found through our research that many people are reluctant to put out the money for a modem that’s $199 dollars.”

Additionally, Green said that by focusing on specific applications, the company could reach out to less technically-savvy consumers.

“We’re stressing that ‘always on’ connection and utilizing application messaging against a more mainstream audience, rather than the idea of pure speed,” she said. “We already have the … early adopters. Who we’re targeting now are who we call ‘Web families’ — multi-person households, with kids and without kids, and every person for different reasons utilizing the Internet. They’re using the Internet for more straightforward applications — most people are using it for email and research … and file-sharing.”

Despite its anemic rollout pace and the dot-com shakeout, the broadband business remains one of Bethpage, N.Y.-based Cablevision’s healthier areas. The company is saddled with money-losing operations including its cable television system, its electronics retailer The Wiz, and two high-priced sports teams — the Rangers and the Knicks.

The company has been hurt by alienating cable customers by opting to not carry the Yankees’ YES Network, and, in recent weeks, through industry-wide concerns over the accounting practices of rival Adelphia .

Additionally, the company has warned that it could come in under next year’s funding requirements if it continues along with projected capital spending outlays — which many believe are necessary to placate cable customers.

Still, high-speed Internet access has grown to produce revenues of $57 million in first quarter of this year, up from $23 million a year earlier.

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