In 1998, Intertainer, Inc. a leading provider of entertainment on demand, approached BSMG Worldwide with its idea to revolutionize the way consumers obtain and experience American pop culture in their homes. Intertainer, an intuitive, interactive broadband network delivered to consumers’ PCs or TVs via cable modems, DSL lines or next-generation digital set-top boxes, offers more than 50,000 hours of movies, music videos, concerts, kids and adult programming, television shows and shopping from more than 60 major media companies. A sampling of content providers includes Columbia Tri-Star Television, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox, Miramax, Sony Music, ESPN, Disney Channel, Dreamworks SKG, among others.
By mid-1999, Intertainer’s technology infrastructure and content library were in place, and the next main objective for Intertainer was to raise awareness of the service among cable and telephone operators who would function as the middlemen delivering Intertainer into people’s homes. BSMG was retained to achieve this objective while building the Intertainer brand. To do so, we comprised an intensive, ongoing strategic media relations program that not only resulted in raising widespread awareness among its target business partners, but also began setting the stage for Intertainer’s penetration into local markets across the country.
Today the company is rapidly deploying in major metropolitan cities across the nation. BSMG has devised a local launch plan for Intertainer that can be implemented on a case-by-case basis in each market Intertainer penetrates. To date, Intertainer has launched in Cincinnati and Denver. At least ten more cities will receive the Intertainer service by year-end.
This ongoing communications effort is implemented at a cost of $15,000 each month.
BSMG’s first step for Intertainer was to establish the company’s core communications objectives, which have evolved over time, but today include:
Support the consumer launch of Intertainer in a series of influential markets, generating increased local awareness that leads to increased national consumer awareness.
Increase broad awareness of Intertainer among cable operators and telco companies as a “differentiator” in drawing service subscribers, particularly in target deployment markets.
Our overall strategy for Intertainer is to increase national awareness and credibility of the service among key consumer, advertising/marketing and deployment partners by leveraging results to date, merchandising local efforts, and promoting early adopters through a focused campaign on relevant local, trade and consumer media.
A second aspect of Intertainer’s strategy centers on the service’s impact on entertainment consumption now that the service is available to consumers. Specifically, we collaborated with Intertainer’s marketing department to add color to our communications collateral. Intertainer’s press kit was re-designed to include a striking mixture of hues and our tradeshow giveaways (e.g. cocktail shakers, candles, notepads, hats and shirts) evoked that same dynamic feeling. We immediately recognized the effectiveness of this strategy as Intertainer’s tradeshow booth at NCTA 2000 and the Western Cable Show became increasingly crowded with patrons.
Finally, the addition of experienced executives to Intertainer’s management ranks provided enhanced credibility in the eyes of potential partners and investors. We thought to leverage this executive “star power” by deepening the “bench” of potential spokespeople. We limit the number of executives speaking with the press in order to ensure the delivery of consistent messaging, but we have successfully implemented a speaking engagement program for the company’s executives that spans nearly every major conference and convention in the interactive TV, broadband and convergence arenas.
One of the re-occurring challenges we have had to combat are the perceptions that Intertainer is Internet-based. While many key editors in the technology and entertainment trades now understand the distinction as a result of our marketing and promotion efforts, a new challenge lies ahead with consumers. Through a series of carefully timed announcements, media tours and speaking engagements, we’ve dramatically altered this perception and continue to battle it today.
Another issue we’ve had to overcome surrounds Intertainer’s deployments. Although initial deployment looks very promising, Intertainer continues to face the possibility of an unsuccessful trial or deployment as well as full market entry delays or cancellations. In particular, since Intertainer is dependent on distribution by third parties, many deployment issues are out of the company’s control. Moreover, the adoption of broadband by consumers has also been slower than many analysts and industry experts once predicted. Of course, this can be attributed to immature technology infrastructures. We recognized the need to proactively address possible skepticism from the press to prevent a tainted repuation. To date, we have managed to avoid any negative publicity by building extremely solid relationships with key press via a series of media briefings.
Each of the challenges named above has made PR a vital component of Intertainer’s early success. Our campaign calls for the company to highlight three favorable characteristics, namely its investors, its content and its executives. In January 2000, Microsoft and Intertainer entered into a strategic alliance, and the software leader invested $56 million in Intertainer. The joint press release and pre-briefings with select journalists not only resulted in a surge of media coverage, but captured the attention of cable and telco operators, which ultimately will lead to additional deployments. The second point of reference in each press announcement is the company’s robust programming library. Finally the varied experience of Intertainer’s executives in the entertainment industry has made the corporate story an intriguing one for the media.
Led by Managing Director Anne Burkhimer and Group Manager Caroline Meyer, Intertainer has received millions upon millions of media impressions in publications throughout the nation, including incredible stories in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Multichannel News, Electronic Media, Cable World, Broadcasting and Cable, Electronic Media, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Red Herring, among others. These results are especially notable considering the fact that Intertainer has limited deployments and also isn’t turning a profit yet.
In addition, BSMG has placed Intertainer’s executives in more than 50 speaking engagements at high- profile industry conferences and developed strategic communications programs for trade shows. Most importantly, BSMG has established close relationships with the press, which will help Intertainer immensely as the company embarks on its next major step in its journey – consumer deployment.