Independent ad sales rep firm Viamedia last week extended its deal with Knology to represent ad sales for the operator’s Huntsville, Ala., market.
Viamedia already represents Knology systems in Augusta, Charleston, Knoxville, Montgomery, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Panama City and Tampa. The company also represents WideOpenWest, and Grande Communications, among others.
“We realized in 2001 that consumers would respond well to competition and figured those competitive operators would need help with advertising,” Viamedia founder Jeff Carter said. “They were so busy with building infrastructure and growing the business, we could take the advertising side of the business off their plate and do it for them.”
Clearly, selling ads for a competitive operator “is a different sell,” Carter said. For one thing, there is often a lot of education that goes with the sales pitches. But that doesn’t mean the rep firm doesn’t have a good story to tell. Even though the competitive operators don’t generally cover an entire market, they often operate in areas with strong demographics.
“The business model of the competitive operators is such that they will typically have more robust product offerings,” Carter said. “And that tends to lure early adopters and viewers with attractive demographics. Basically, the value of those customers is often greater than the average cable customer and that is attractive to advertisers.”
Carter has been in the cable ad sales game since 1984 working for various cable operators, including TeleCable, TCI and AT&T Broadband. He knew that competition in the industry was inevitable and decided in 2001 to form an independent ad sales rep firm aimed at the new competitors entering the market: Viamedia was born.
The gamble paid off. Today, the company has 21 contracts with companies that reach about 3.4 million U.S. homes. And the numbers keep growing.
Viamedia has seen its business grow 1.2 million cable customers per year for the last few years and despite the sluggish economy, he predicts growth for this year. To be sure, the recession is hurting everyone, including Viamedia, Carter admitted. But the upside for his company remains strong partly because it’s coming from a smaller base.
“We’re not a mature business and frankly, we have room to grow,” he said. “We have a compelling story to tell and advertisers like what they hear.”
At this point, most of Viamedia’s ad sales have been in the linear TV space. But that is changing quickly. As operators launch advanced services, the demand for avails in those new platforms continues to grow as well. Carter expects to begin selling multiplatform packages this year.
“For us, it’s been a crawl, walk, run scenario. We have dipped our toes in the advanced services water but I can’t go into much detail about our plans this year yet.”
In addition, Viamedia teamed up with Google AdWords last summer becoming a premiere partner in the search arena. And his deal with Google does not limit him to cutting deals inside markets where he already reps ad sales for existing clients. Carter predicts search marketing will be a big business for advertisers and Viamedia in the future.
“We see a convergence of the TV and Web screens,” Carter said. “We wanted to take advantage of that. It’s all about moving product for customers and any tools that help that, we’re interested in marketing to them.”
So far, the reaction and retention rate for the service has been positive, Carter said, noting that the company continues to tweak its sales methods. “We’ve probably refined our approach four times in the last six months and we’ll probably do it again. But it’s a great opportunity”
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