Commentary

Do Customers Know Cable Systems Are Airing Super Bowl?

The cable industry still doesn't promote the biggest TV program of the year that is delivered through their cable wires.

Can you guess what it is? "The Sopranos"? "SpongeBob Square Pants"? "The Closer"?

Nope. It's the Super Bowl.

It's on ABC this year, which the last time we checked was a network on our cable system, as well as on every MSO in the country. But cable operators aren't interested in promoting it, even though seeing the Super Bowl on cable is part of the reason why consumers buy cable.

Cable operators want to promote shows that 1) give them an extra fee, such as with video-on-demand or pay-TV programming, or 2) give them local advertising to sell. The Super Bowl gives them neither.

But this is not to say one cable operator doesn't know the value of the Super Bowl event to promote its own wares. Come this Sunday, Comcast Cable of Michigan will use the place-based media company, InStadium, to tout its wares with signage in all the restrooms at Detroit's Ford Field for Super Bowl XL.

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A flow of stadium consumers at the event will be pouring in--so to speak. It's a major Super Bowl tradition, considering the stream of beverages at parties and the like.

Comcast's two pieces of creative are very appropriate for the setting: "Go with the flow," and "You can pause the game while you pause for whatever."

This talks to the marketing power of the event, and, as such, shouldn't Comcast tell its users that it has a big part in bringing them the game? Apparently not. (However, stay tuned for a very special "My Fair Brady" on VH1.)

It may not always be this way. Les Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp., wants cable operators to pay for CBS programming because networks like CBS spend lots of money for the rights to air the biggest TV show of the year. Maybe CBS might even give up some advertising time to cable operators for such a deal. Promotion could soon follow.

If not -- drum roll, please -- cable might just continue to think the Super Bowl is something to piss on.

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