Your Choice TV, with plans to be in about 5 million to 6 million cable homes by the end of 1998, will offer advertisers the ability to narrowly target commercial messages.
The network, a subsidiary of Discovery Communications, will offer reruns of TV episodes soon after they are aired. The company tested viewer interest in such a service a few years ago.
Y&R CLIENTS INVOLVED EARLY
Signing up with Your Choice enables Y&R's clients to get involved in the nascent stages, sharing in research and experimenting with targeted ads.
Discovery owners Tele-Communications Inc. and Cox Communications are among the cable system operators that have committed to offering the service to some of their subscribers; Comcast Corp. also has signed on.
Through an agreement with Walt Disney Co., Your Choice will offer all ABC soap operas, as well as Disney-owned "Ellen," ABC newsmagazines such as "20/20" and "PrimeTime Live," and some ESPN programming. Also in the programming mix are "Sesame Street," some Home Box Office movies and comedy specials, "Masterpiece Theatre," and shows from the Discovery and Animal Planet cable networks.
What makes the network attractive to advertisers is the fact Your Choice will be a transactional service, using digital technology. Unlike most pay-per-view events, Your Choice programs-with a suggested retail price of 99 cents per episode-will run with commercials.
"Because the viewer has to push a button on his remote control and buy each show, we will know immediately what household has purchased a show," said James Lightstone, Your Choice senior VP-business affairs.
At the least, Your Choice will know the ZIP code of the home that purchased the show, said Art Cohen, recently named VP-advertising for the network. The network will then combine that information with various databases, using the results to target ads.
Ultimately, the network hopes many of its viewers will sign up for an on-screen menu that could be customized to an individual's taste. Then Your Choice would know what individual in a household has purchased a program.
"Armed with that information, we can plug in commercials targeted to that person," Mr. Lightstone said.
"It's potentially very exciting from an advertiser point of view," said Robert Igiel, exec VP-director of broadcast buying for Y&R. "We will be able to study consumer behavior."
Y&R clients such as AT&T Corp. and the U.S. Army could participate in Your Choice.
Commercials shown with Your Choice programs will be a mix of national spots that aired when the shows originally ran and spots sold exclusively for the rerun service. For shows that originally aired without ads, such as "Masterpiece Theatre" or an HBO special, spots sold by Your Choice will appear before and after the programming, Mr. Cohen said.