Gearing up for Cyber Monday

I’m really looking forward to getting into the office tomorrow. It’s Cyber Monday and though ABCTE is not a typical online retailer, we do offer a big Cyber Monday discount. Anyone who enrolls by midnight on Monday using the special discount code (it’s posted on the front page of receives $150 off ABCTE’s teaching certification program, which normally costs $975.

We started the promotion last year, coming up with the idea very last minute, and we saw some nice Cyber Monday results. I’m hopeful we’ll beat those results this year, as we got the word out earlier, hit our mailing list once already with the news, issued a press release and have been using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out as well. The promotion also kicked off on Black Friday this year, giving people four days to take advantage of it.


FiOS Update: Including Why Some Get Two MASNs But Not Two CSNs

I exchanged some more emails with a member of Verizon’s PR staff, as I continue to try to get a better understanding of the issues previously mentioned here, with FiOS customers in some parts of the D.C. area unable to get Comcast SportsNet Plus (CSN+).

What I learned in that email exchange might be helpful to some of you who are trying to understand why you can’t get Caps and Wizards games on CSN+ via FiOS in your area, when a FiOS customer in a neighboring county can. Or why you could get MASN2 on your FiOS channel 1 during baseball season, but can’t get CSN+ now.

If you are a FiOS customer in a part of the D.C. area that gets CSN+, it is shown on your channel 1. For you, that channel is called Fios1. This distinction between Fios1 and channel 1 is key to understanding this whole situation.

For the DC market, FiOS1 is available—according to the CSN Plus Listings on—in the following areas: Montgomery County and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland and then Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Loudoun County, Prince William, Spotsylvania County and Stafford County in Virginia.

Now for FiOS customers in someplace like Howard County, you have a channel 1. That channel was carrying MASN2 this summer. But, that channel is now blank for you, most or all of the time, according to one FiOS customer who lives there. Channel 1 for all of these particular FiOS customers is not FiOS1; it is just channel 1 and it does not carry CSN+.

The reason channel 1 carried MASN2 for these FioS customers this summer is, according to Verizon’s PR staff, because “MASN makes MASN2 available as a full-time feed. Comcast does not make CSN+ available as a full-time feed. At this time, [Verizon is] not able to handle a part-time feed like that, so outside of where [Verizon has] FiOS1, [they] cannot offer a part-time channel like CSN+.”

So, the only way FiOS customers in these areas could get CSN+ on FiOS channel 1 would be if either:

1.) Verizon turns Channel 1 into FiOS1 in these locations, like it is in all the locations listed above or 2.) Comcast SportsNet decides at some point to turn CSN+ into a full-time feed like MASN does with MASN2.

As for point number 1, Verizon says that FiOS1 is “a local channel that [Verizon] offers right now in three areas: DC metro, Long Island (New York), and Northern New Jersey. As [FiOS] moves forward, [they’ll] announce any plans to expand the channel.”

People can debate where the DC metro area begins and ends, but for right now, according to the way FiOS defines it with FiOS1, it does not include some areas that are as close as about 20 miles to where the Caps and Wizards play their home games.

If I could get Verizon to answer one question, it would be: What specifically is preventing them from putting FiOS1 on channel 1 right now in these other DC area locations where there is demand for the CSN+ games? That’s the one thing I still have not gotten a clear answer on.

As for option number 2, this would require CSN+ to fill the time outside of games with some type of content. MASN2 did this by airing ESPN News. I have not heard whether or not this is something CSN would consider or even has the capacity to do. I only know that they want to help Verizon find a solution to this problem.

Despite the uncertainties, one things is pretty clear—a lot of people are losing in the current set-up. Caps and Wizards fans are not able to watch approximately a dozen of each team’s games, FiOS risks losing some of these fans to competing cable TV companies, CSN is not having some of their content seen by people who want that content and, finally, the teams whose games aren’t being seen are missing out on some opportunities to reach current and potential fans.

We need a beer summit.

Washington Post: I’d Like a Saturday/Sunday Subscription Option

If I have any time to sit down and read the print edition of the newspaper, it’s on the weekend. Those are the days I’m in less of a hurry to get out the door and I can sometimes sit there with my coffee and enjoy the paper, which for me is The Washington Post.

But this only happens on Sundays. Saturdays are out, not because I don’t have time, but because there are currently only two Washington Post subscription options: seven-days-a-week or Sunday only.

I could sign up for seven-days-a-week but I don’t need it Monday through Friday. I could also go out and pick up a copy of the Saturday paper, which I occasionally do, but that kind of ruins the whole read-it-in-your-pajamas-while-you-drink-coffee-and-eat-breakfast experience.

Several years ago, I heard a member of the Post‘s staff propose a weekend only subscription during a online chat (their name escapes me and I can’t find a link to it) and I’m a fan of this.

I would guess there are a good number of people in my situation—we’re unlikely to sign up for everyday delivery, but the Post could be making more money off us if they had a way for us to get Saturday and Sunday delivery, rather than just Sundays.

Perhaps the Post fears they’ll lose too many full-time subscribers who would downgrade to this option? There’s definitely the potential for this to happen. But the Post and other papers are losing subscribers already anyway, as more people get their news online.

I’m sure the Post has run and continues to run through various options and scenarios. But as new models for the news business are discussed, maybe its worth giving more consideration to the fact that there might be quite a few people who are online news consumers most of the time, yet who would still be willing to pay to have the option of sitting around with the old school paper on not just Sunday but Saturday as well.

An update on the Verizon FiOS & CSN+ situation

Here’s an update on my post from Wednesday, about how Verizon FiOS only carries CSN+ in some parts of the D.C. area, causing frustrations for some Caps fans. I corresponded with representatives from both Comcast SportsNet and Verizon about the issue and want to share their responses.

But first, a quick thank you to the writers who linked to the post, sending a boatload of traffic to it. To J.P. at Japer’s Rink on SB Nation, Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports, Dave Hughes at DCRTV and Dave McKenna at Washington City Paper’s Cheap Seats Daily — thank you!

And thank you to everyone who Tweeted about the story or posted comments on the blog. It was great to see so many people who are passionate about the issue and watching Caps games.

Those last few paragraphs felt like the Oscars, but it was important to me that I say thank you, because I really do appreciate all the links, discussion and thoughts you’ve shared.

So, here’s what I’ve got as of right now…

Tim Fitzpatrick, VP Communications with Comcast Sports Group called me today after I had reached out to a PR professional who works with the company. I was curious to know if there was anything that could be done on Comcast SportsNet’s end to resolve the issue, especially after seeing reader Jill’s comment on my original post yesterday, where she talked about the resolution that Cox and Comcast SportsNet reached, as she states “at the very beginning of the 2008-2009 season,” when “Cox customers were without CSN+.”

While on the phone, I asked Fitzpatick to send me a statement by email, which he did: “Comcast SportsNet makes 100% of our Caps and Wizards games available to Verizon FiOS, as we do to all of our distribution partners. However because of a Verizon technical matter, FiOS customers in certain Maryland and Virginia markets are unable to see Comcast SportsNet’s Capitals and Wizards games on the “plus” channel when the other team appears on the primary Comcast SportsNet channel. For further information fans should contact Verizon directly at 888-553-1555.”

A short while later, I got a response from a member of the Verizon public relations team to an email I’d sent them earlier in the day.

Heather Wilner, Manager, Media Relations for Verizon said in her email to me, “We continue to work on making CSN+ content available to customers in the parts of the D.C. area that do not get our FiOS1 channel, which is currently the only place FiOS customers can watch these games. We are working with Comcast to make this happen, but, unfortunately, it’s unlikely it will happen this season. We continue to offer a lot of other hockey content available on other channels, including games airing on local channels, CSN on channels 76 and 576 (HD), Versus on channels 90 and 590 (HD) and the NHL Network on channels 87 and 587(HD). And we hope to be able to get you all of the Caps games in the future.”

What I want to know is, what does Verizon mean when they say they are “working with Comcast” to resolve the issue and what exactly is the issue? What is the “Verizon technical matter” mentioned in the Comcast statement?

Quite simply, why can someone in Montgomery County, for example, watch CSN+ on Verizon Fios channel 1, but then someone just up the road in a neighboring county or another part of the region can not?

Is the fiber Verizon put in the ground in one county different from the fiber they laid in another county? Is it a capacity or bandwidth issue? Is it a contractual issue? Is it money-related?

I hope Verizon does get their customers “all of the Caps games in the future,” but I want to know what’s preventing them from giving all their customers CSN+ right now. That’s the answer I want, so we can figure out if there’s anything that can be done to fix the problem.

Until I get a better answer, I plan to do something many cable companies are quite familiar with—more digging.

Note: I realize the Caps are not the only team affected by this issue with FiOS and CSN+. There are times when the Caps are on CSN and the Wizards or college games, for example, are on CSN+, and some fans of those teams are unable to watch their games through FiOS. I focused on how this relates to the Caps when I wrote that story Wednesday, because that’s what I was plugged into as a big Caps fan. But if this gets resolved with FiOS, fans of many teams could benefit.

Verizon Fios Frustrating Some Caps Fans in D.C. Area

This story hasn’t gotten much coverage from the mainstream media or the blogosphere yet, but hopefully it will soon.

For whatever reason, Verizon Fios is not carrying CSN+ in Howard County, Anne Arundel County and other markets. This is leaving some fans of the Washington Capitals without access to quite a few game broadcasts that some of their neighbors in other parts of the D.C. area can still view on their Fios service.

Last Friday night, when the Caps played the Minnesota Wild at home in Verizon Center, Verizon Fios viewers in those areas couldn’t get the game as it was carried on CSN+, rather than on the standard Comcast Sportnet. It wasn’t the first time this has happened this season and it will happen again this weekend when the team travels to Toronto, and then again a week later when the Caps play Montreal the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

And those won’t be the last games these Fios customers won’t get this season—they’ll also miss two games in December, three in January and another in February. It’s about a dozen games total—or almost 15% of the schedule–that some Fios customers won’t see. When you’re a fan, that’s a lot. When you’re an organization that’s playing some fantastic hockey that you’d like for as many fans and potential fans as possible to see, it’s not ideal either.

It’s not as if these areas are outside of Caps territory. My parents are Fios customers, Caps full season ticket holders and live in Howard County, just over 25 miles from downtown D.C. The Caps even market the team another 20 miles up the road from them in Baltimore. There are plenty of Caps fans throughout Howard, Anne Arundel and beyond, especially these days when the team is on marketing fire.

A search for Fios on the Caps message boards produces links to multiple threads from fans trying to understand why they can’t get these games on their TV.

On Verizon’s online forums, the “Suggest Channels to Add to Fios” thread has quite a few comments from Caps fans suggesting CSN+ be made available to them—though no one from Verizon seems to logging in and replying to them (they should consider doing that before frustration builds further for the fans posting there).

I sent some tweets to Verizon, asking about this issue. They got back to me today saying “CSN+ coverage of #Caps games is only avail in D.C. and some burbs. Hoping to have that expanded for nxt season.”

NEXT SEASON?! Unleash the fury, Caps fans! I’d really like to see better communication from Verizon on this, explaining exactly why they can provide CSN+ for viewers in some parts of the area but not others and why it will take until next season to resolve the issue.

Note: I’ve focused on Howard and Anne Arundel here because they are the areas where I’ve seen this problem firsthand or read about it being an issue. I’ve seen mentions of other areas affected by this, so if it affects you, please let me know—the comments are open.

New updates on the Fios/CSN+ issue:
11/19/09 – An update on the Verizon FiOS & CSN+ situation
11/24/09 – FiOS Update…Why Some Get Two MASNs But Not Two CSNs
12/5/09 – …Verizon FiOS has “solution for the ‘over flow’ games”
2/2/10 – Verizon FiOS Adding CSN+ By Tomorrow…

Starbucks Helping to Grow Instant Coffee Sales for Others?

NESCAFÉ vs. Starbucks marketing materialsAs I emerged from the D.C. Metro today, someone handed me the package pictured on the right. It contains several NESCAFÉ samples in multiple flavors.

Clearly, NESCAFÉ is looking to protect their share of the instant coffee market as Starbucks pushes Via, and I think they’re doing a good job of it with this street-team style approach. There’s a lot I like about the marketing material NESCAFÉ handed out this morning.

First, it’s simple and there’s no doubt what the message is: “We know you’ve heard about what Starbucks is doing. Now, here, try this.”

Two, a lot of busy people suddenly had free samples of the product in their hands, as many of them headed for their office. Someone in my office actually put their package of samples out in the kitchen with an invitation for people to try them.

Finally, NESCAFÉ has placed a coupon on the inside flap of their promo piece. So as people are given a chance to sample multiple flavors, they’re getting an invitation to buy more at a discount.

But what NESCAFÉ’s free sample really got me thinking about today is that Starbucks may have created a huge opportunity for NESCAFÉ with the launch of Via. Suddenly, there’s more chatter about instant coffee than I can ever remember and—with these samples serving as a nice reminder to people that they are already in that business—there’s a chance NESCAFÉ could see their sales rise thanks to Starbucks.

By creating more overall interest in instant coffees, rather than ending up being a threat to the market share of others in the business, Via could end up benefiting anyone with an instant coffee product who markets it well.

Talk to Chuck…using social media

Talk to Chuck ads with social media included While on the D.C. Metro one day this week, a Charles Schwab ad campaign inside the train caught my attention. In the bottom left hand corner of the ads (similar to the one featured here on the right), they have included a series of icons directing people to social media sites Facebook, Yelp and YouTube.

It may seem small but this is a great thing Charles Schwab has done here—if you’re going to spend the money on a campaign, why not link to social media and the web so the conversation can continue even after people step away from your ads or after you’ve stopped running the campaign. This is the type of thing that was missing from the Nats’ Washington Post ad I mentioned in an earlier blog entry (Sorry, Nats—I’m not trying to pick on you—like I said in the earlier post, it was a great ad but there was a missed social media opportunity).

Social media can help stretch your dollars further. And you never know which people seeing your traditional marketing materials will turn out to be super-fans who will share your content all over the social web, bringing you even more bang for your buck. If you’re using social media, it pays to let people know through your other communications, as Chuck did here.

Thanks to Matt at Charles Schwab for emailing me the ad pictured above–and he responded the same day I wrote him. Hats off to him for engaging a blogger.