Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

An atmosphere of reinvention characterized the 2015 Internet at Television Expo (INTX). The show underwent a complete rebranding this year (in previous years it’s been The Cable Show), and participants exhibited a heightened awareness of the changing consumer habits that continue to push the industry to evolve. The cable industry seems to have acknowledged that the traditional TV subscription model is broken for younger consumers. The conference paid particular attention to the ways in which the industry is reinventing itself to better resonate with Millennials and even the iGeneration. As the industry has taken these consumers into account, providers have shifted both the services they offer and the ways in which they market this to consumers. Yet, the industry acknowledges that plenty of work still lies ahead. After several days of observing, interacting, and note-taking at INTX, we’ve compiled three key takeaways for marketers, as the industry looks to better connect with consumers.

1. Highlight the Personal

US consumers who do not have pay TV service are split between cord-cutters (7%) and cord-nevers (11%)

Consumers want goods and services that are customizable and tailored to them. Cable providers seem hyper aware of this fact, as methods of personalizing pay TV service proliferated at INTX. For example, Comcast launched its new Xfinity Share feature, which enables customers to share content to their TV, or someone else’s, in real time, whether the content is streamed live or previously recorded. Cox, on the other hand, highlighted the success of its highly personalized Contour TV service, which allows customers to save up to eight individual profiles with customized preferences. Numerous providers showcased how they have integrated apps for streaming services such as Netflix, Pandora, or Hulu through their set-top boxes. With countless available permutations of content accessibility, organization, recommendations, discoverability, and shareability, pay TV offers no shortage of possibilities for personalized service. Marketers are challenged to ensure that consumers understand how a service will reflect their habits and preferences. Even seemingly small enhancements to better enable a consumer to customize the service should be highlighted in marketing efforts—both in customer communications, as well as acquisition efforts.

2. Educate Customers about Free Extras

A need to educate customers about the “free” extras offered as part of their TV or Internet subscriptions resurfaced frequently at INTX 2015, particularly at panels about free Wi-Fi hotspots and TV Everywhere (TVE) service. These two services can provide immense value to Internet and TV subscribers, respectively—that is, if the subscribers are taking advantage of them. During a panel devoted to TVE, panelists agreed that although they have built out impressive services to enable customers to access TV anytime, anywhere, and on any device, they are still challenged to entice customers to download the app and use the service. This panel showcased various marketing campaigns that have been successful in raising awareness of the service, whether a multi-channel digital effort, a sweepstakes, or educational mailers.

Panelists also emphasized the importance of teaching customers how to use the service after downloading the app, including reassurances that the service is free and private, and outlining the login process with easy instructions. When launching education efforts, it is important to remember that customer education cannot be one-size-fits-all, but must occur through appropriate messaging in the channels where customers will be most receptive to learning.

3. Be Where the Consumer Is

NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell stated in his INTX opening speech, “Go to the places [the kids] are going.” What he meant was that pay TV must be available where younger consumers are accessing content, such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops. The advice, however, applies well to marketing. For instance, during a session about online storytelling (Storytelling 2.0), executives form Maker Studios, Omnivision Entertainment, and Wattpad discussed interactive content, which is fundamental to their businesses. Outlets with short-form and fan-fueled content are key destinations for Millennials and iGens, who engage in content creation by interacting with the sites’ celebrities, providing feedback, and helping to shape content. Not only do these types of outlets appeal to young consumers—according to Mintel’s Pay TV and Home Communication Services US 2014 report, the types of consumers that have been least interested in a traditional pay TV service—but they also integrate native advertising. Pay TV providers may be able to forge relationships with iGens and Millennials through partnerships with their favorite online celebrities, and through native advertising in the places where these consumers spend their time. As a result, providers could fight perceptions of being outdated, and drive greater interest in a pay TV subscription among Millennials.

Finally, the word authenticity seemed to pop up in various places throughout INTX. Ultimately, consumers—particularly Millennials and iGens—are looking for experiences and advertising that feel authentic to them. Providers will be increasingly challenged by these consumers to build authentic, personalized services, while marketers will be faced with promoting these services through authentic advertising experiences.

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s telecommunications thought leader, specializing in competitive trends across wireless, TV, Internet and home security industries. In her previous roles she provided competitive intelligence, analysis, and strategy for technology and telecommunications clients at public relations and advertising agencies.