Time Warner Cable fights TiVo, satellite

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Even as its much-hyped initial public offering remains on hold, Time Warner Cable is stepping up its pitch for advanced digital entertainment services in a TV and radio campaign breaking today.

The estimated $10 to $15 million effort created by Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky, New York, represents a competitive strike against digital satellite providers, rival cable operators and personal video recorders such as TiVo. It also marks the second phase of the AOL Time Warner unit's "Now, Anything's Possible" communications strategy, first launched in fourth quarter 2002.

Satellite fight

"At the core of this whole business strategy is the reality of competition and the fact that this is about the share-of-market battle with satellite," said Chuck Ellis, exec VP-chief marketing officer, Time Warner Cable.

The latest effort, dubbed "Live in the Moment," includes seven TV spots. The message is that on-demand TV services put consumers in control of their entertainment options, thereby letting them live in the moment.

TV ads run through the second quarter on local broadcast networks in Time Warner Cable's 32 markets in 27 states; radio runs in six local markets. The campaign also includes heavy cross-channel promotion via AOL Time Warner cable and broadcast properties.

Time Warner's DVR service is offered in 15 of its 32 service markets and as of March 31 had 100,000 subscribers. By contrast, TiVo, as of January 31, 2003, had 625,000 subscribers and expects to reach 1 million subscribers by year's end.

Crowded field

Time Warner Cable has 10.9 million basic cable subscribers, 3.9 million or 36% of which are subscribers to digital services. The company counts 500,000 subscribers to its subscription video-on-demand programming and 2.7 million high-speed data subscribers (that number includes subscribers to the Roadrunner, AOL Broadband, EarthLink and BigNet brands, plus local providers.)

Time Warner Cable is jockeying in a crowded field that includes cable giant Comcast, which has 21.3 million basic cable subscribers of which 7.5 million are enabled for digital cable. Comcast does not break out VOD subscriber numbers and has not yet launched DVRs. Cox Communications reports that 1.8 million of its 6.3 million subscribers have digital cable service available to them.

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