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C-SPAN Books a Ride

9/09/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

C-SPAN is helping cable operators to recruit one of the few consumer segments that have been loathe to cough up money each month to pay for TV — book readers.

The network recently spent about $200,000 to overhaul one of the buses it uses to tour the U.S. to promote the network. C-SPAN plans to use the revamped vehicle to market its Book TV series at book fairs. It will team with local cable operators to pitch products like video on demand and high-speed Internet service.

For the public-affairs service, which has used its original C-SPAN School Bus since 1993 to visit classrooms and meet with teachers and students, the new ride will serve as more of a marketing vehicle for the network and its cable affiliates.

“One thing anecdotally we’ve heard at some of these book festivals, as people come by, is that they don’t subscribe to cable TV. They’re readers. They’re book people, and when they hear about this content, they’re like, 'Hmm, maybe I will,’ ” said C-SPAN vice president of affiliate relations Peter Kiley. “So it’s an opportunity for C-SPAN to perhaps participate in some [subscriber] acquisition campaigns — small-scale, but helping cable operators reach those difficult-to-reach customers.”

The new Book TV bus will make its debut in New York this week, where it will be parked outside the Rhiga Royal Hotel. C-SPAN board members will preview the bus, and it will also be open to industry executives in town for the annual Walter Kaitz Foundation Dinner and other Diversity Week activities.

C-SPAN officials will also meet with book executives in the Big Apple later in the month, as the Book TV bus will park in front of publishing houses on Sept. 29 and 30.

The bus will then commence on an indefinite tour of book festivals.

Stops include the Meet Me in St. Louis Book Festival from Oct. 21 to 23. C-SPAN will partner with Charter Communications Inc. there.

In November, the bus will spend several days visiting with Bright House Networks, including its key divisions in Tampa Bay and Orlando, Fla.

The bus will also hit the Miami Book Fair on Nov. 18 to 19, where C-SPAN will team up with Comcast Corp. Last year, the C-SPAN bus and Comcast handed out about 3,000 book bags at the festival, which contained both MSO and Book TV logos.

Book TV bus manager Steve Roth said it costs about $200,000 to operate the bus, with expenses rising with the price of fuel.

FULLY EQUIPPED

Roth has spent the last two weeks overseeing the bus overhaul. The new bus contains a larger TV studio that is used to shoot Book TV interviews with authors at the festivals, three computers that visitors can use to surf the Internet with cable modems and a plasma screen HDTV that will hang on the outside of the bus.

C-SPAN vice president of marketing Marty Dominguez said the tour will help the network draw new viewers to Book TV.

“It’s a good opportunity to get this one niche of people — book lovers, that is pretty substantial, and will allow us to start talking about the fact that Book TV is the only thing out there that has book programming on the cable lineup,” Dominguez said.

September