The iTV Doctor is in! What’s New at CTAM, with CEO Vicki Lins

Dear Readers:   One of the most productive trade organizations in the US television industry is CTAM.   I was an active CTAM member for a very long time, both during my long tenure at Showtime Networks and for years after that.   But CTAM’s membership rules changed a few years ago, which limited participation to corporate members and their employees, though individuals who don’t work for member companies are welcome to attend CTAM Think and other special events.

Doctor’s Note:   My client Amdocs has recently joined CTAM, allowing me to once again participate in CTAM committees and events.    Amdocs’ CTAM membership highlights their increased focus on helping Pay TV Operators and Television Networks monetize entertainment and video content, including new approaches like interactive personalized advertising that leverages the volumes of subscriber data that operators already possess.  

Like the industry itself, CTAM is changing and evaluating how they can best meet the needs of the industry.   CTAM’s new President and CEO Vicki Lins agreed to sit down for an interview, to bring us all up to speed.  Vicki comes to CTAM from a long marketing career in the industry, including about a decade at Comcast and Canoe. 

 

iTV Doctor:   Vicki – you were once an individual member of CTAM, a Mark Award winner, and I’m sure you attended many a CTAM Summit.  But the CTAM you returned to as President and CEO has changed dramatically since then.   The acronym itself has stood for many different things over the years, including one joking definition by Char Beales (CTAM President and CEO from 1992 – 2013), “Can’t Tell Any More!”   

What is CTAM these days?

Vicki Lins:    I think when you look at CTAM, the organization has been such an influential presence in the industry for 40 years, and CTAM’s role has changed along with the industry.  Today’s landscape is different. It’s more competitive.  Consumers are empowered and engaged.  And innovation is expected and so I don’t think it’s an accident that I’m the first marketer to lead CTAM.  It’s time for our member companies to fully commit to consumer centricity – our core ideal.   That opens all kinds of possibilities.

Most notably for us it’s a shift from being geared towards bringing programmers and cable companies together to build relationships, to now providing a place where product, content and brand marketers are all working together to advance the whole – to cross pollinate their best practices and then deliver value to consumers.   We’re more of a marketing organization than an association for marketers.

As for the CTAM acronym, unofficially we believe it stands for Collaboration to Advance Marketing.  And in recent years, CTAM has been just CTAM.  Whether we officially change what the acronym stands for is secondary in my mind; what it means to our members is the most important thing.
It’s important to capture the essence of CTAM: to positively position the collective brand and generate industry lift.  To strengthen the evolving industry business model. 

And to market best in class consumer experiences.  What’s really notable is that we will become increasingly representative of marketing excellence outside of our circle of influence because we’re evolving, too.

iTV Doctor:   Who can join CTAM?

Vicki Lins:   Cable companies, programming companies and studios that distribute content through cable companies, and technology suppliers, agencies and research companies that support the industry are currently eligible for CTAM membership.

iTV Doctor:  How do companies benefit from joining CTAM?

Vicki Lins:    CTAM core member benefits are Co-operative Marketing, Strategic Collaboration and Executive Education.   There is a lot more detail here:

https://www.ctam.com/Membership/Pages/default.aspx

iTV Doctor:  The single greatest value I’ve ever found at CTAM is being involved in the critical discussions and issues that drive the business.    I am absolutely certain there are companies who want to initiate or expand their business opportunities with the cable industry who would hear something at a CTAM council meetings and say, “OMG!  I can fix that! Me!  Me!  I can DO that!!!” How can companies like that get involved in CTAM?

Vicki Lins:   We’re already broadening engagement in the work we do.   One example is our collaboration with the Open Authentication Technology Committee (OATC), where our members are working with satellite and telco folks on improving the TV Everywhere user experience.  We're entering a time where competitors are collaborators.

iTV Doctor:   Traditional Pay TV providers now add their own streaming options to the cable box/wired world, and stand-alone OTT providers are working with cable companies to meet consumer needs.   The difference between a network like CBS that provides both Pay TV and streaming experiences and Netflix or Amazon that marketing both syndicated “cable” shows along with their own originals is mostly semantics and scale.  How is CTAM adapting to provide value in this dynamic world.

Vicki Lins:   Definitions are dangerous.  The lines are blurring.   When you start with a consumer-first proposition, you realize that consumers don’t see the lines the way we do.  They just want an easy, elegant experience.  That means opportunities for CTAM will naturally arise out of the marketplace dynamics and varying types of collaboration will make a difference. And that goes right back to what CTAM means to me:  Collaboration to Advance Marketing.

iTV Doctor:   When CTAM changed the rules some time ago (eliminating individual members) I lost out.  Are you looking at changing that?

Vicki Lins:   We are re-evaluating the structure of our engagement criteria in the context of today’s landscape.   The decisions that we made in the past were right for that time, and we've continued to regularly review what makes sense for our mission. There are individuals who come to me saying “I want to be involved in CTAM,” but let’s not get too hung up on the word “member.”   We’re looking at broader opportunities for involvement as a starting point, such as attending CTAM Think or solving multi-platform brand attribution challenges.  But we’ll also stay true to our critical core, such as the highly-successful, MSO cooperative marketing CableMover program. It’s all part of staying relevant and responsive.   

iTV Doctor:   CTAM “Think” is in New York on November 3.   How do people register?  And if companies are interested in membership, who should they contact?

Vicki Lins:   The CTAM Think agenda and registration are on ctam.com.  

Companies interested in full membership should contact Angie Britt, VP of Advanced Products, angie@ctam.com, or Ken Leonardo, VP of Marketing, ken@ctam.com. They’ll be happy to chat about how CTAM can work for you. 

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