Cable's New VOD Politics Channel

Service aims to tap into Obama euphoria

A group of cable operators will launch an on-demand politics channel in a bid to tap the euphoria surrounding the inauguration of the first African-American president—and they aim to start Jan. 20, the day Barack Obama is sworn into office.

The service is aimed at viewers eager for political information on the national and local fronts. For the operators, it's a chance to prolong the flow of political dollars to local cable in what is expected to be an active year for issue advertising.

TNS Media Intelligence estimates that local cable, print and radio took in between $200 million and $400 million during the election cycle.

The politics channel is an evolution of the one-year-old service Elections '08, which was shuttered after the general election ended in November. The channel is backed by Comcast Corp., Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Insight Communications. With the exception of Insight, the parties are also owners of Canoe Ventures, a new joint-venture ad platform.

Comcast's sales division is already in talks with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) about providing politically oriented branded content. The Obama campaign had bought longform ad placements on Election '08 On Demand. The channel also carried political content from The History Channel, local material from operators and archive footage. The service garnered 800,000 views after its fourth quarter 2007 launch.

“We saw where longform [advertising] is going and the fact that the MSOs have skin in the game,” says Dan Sinagoga, political ad director for Comcast Spotlight.

“We've given it the kickoff we needed to have future success,” Sinagoga says. “The Barack Obama formula is going to be the blueprint for campaigns of the future.”

Sinagoga says the cable companies are “approaching all sides, Democratic and Republican, for longform opportunities.” The partners are still brainstorming a name.

Comcast Spotlight bagged around $50 million in 2008 political advertising, a 68% increase over the 2006 election and 32% ahead of its own projection. It placed political spots on 21 channels between Super Tuesday and the general election. By comparison, in 2004, it booked only two channels. The cable operator also placed 5 million political ad spots, up from around 3 million in 2006.