You may have heard the radio ads or seen the billboards around Fresno advertising television commercials on the cheap. Discount is the collaborative effort of eight local over-the-air stations, owned by Cocola Broadcasting.

"Many businesses don't think television advertising is affordable," said owner Gary Cocola. "And for many of them, traditional television isn't."

That notion will change if Cocola has his way.

Cocola said most of the airtime on his stations is purchased in bulk by networks such as Home Shopping Network and The Box Music Network. While reviewing the program schedule, Cocola found that he had an extra four minutes per hour for local advertising. Dividing that into eight 30-second spots per hour, multiplied by eight stations, Cocola found that he had 1,536 spots a day to fill. Cocola formed Discount as a way to market the available air-time. He's now offering 30-second spots for $4.99 a pop.

Cocola is quick to point out that the stations are free and over-the air. This means they're not currently available on cable and an antenna is necessary to recieve the signal.

"There are 511,000 homes with a television in the Fresno designated market area," said Cocola. "Forty-nine percent of them don't have cable."

Fresno is the 54th largest market in the nation and that may soon grow, as there are plans to include Porterville and Merced into the Fresno/Visalia market area.

The stations aren't rated by Nielson or any other polling methods and they're not listed in the local television guide. However, the annual sales of $1.8 million on the Home Shopping Network and $11,000 monthly fees generated by The Box indicate a substantial viewership. The broadcast zone of the stations range from Merced to Delano to Los Banos and has an estimated population of 1,700,000.

The same area is served by a total of 48 over-the-air stations. Some stations are the result of spill over from Sacramento and bakersfield.

"People are often surprised at the viewing options available without cable," said Cocola.

The eight stations and their programming are, 32 KMCF - it features classic shows such as The Beverly Hillbillies and older movies, 66 KHST - Home Shopping, 34 KSDI - The Box interactive music videos, 68 KQJA - Shop At Home, 55 KJBC - America's Collectibles Network, 28 KJKZ - Classic Arts Showcase, 13 KCWB - HTV Latin music videos, and 4 KVHF - America's Voice political programming.

Three components to consider when advertising on television are, reach, frequency and message. Reach is the number of people viewing a station. Frequency is the number of times the advertisement is seen. And, of course, the message is the content of the ad.

Male and female, English and Spanish speakers, ranging in age from 18 to 64 comprise the demographic appeal offered by the stations. This broad viewership allows advertisers to place their commercials before a targeted audience. With stations operating on a 24-hour, seven-day week format, advertisers can further refine the impact of their message by placing spots at appropriate time slots. For instance, discount auto insurers may want commercials airing late at night when more young people would be apt to tune-in.

It's easy to order television spots or recieve more information about each station. Just type in and an interactive screen guides you through an on-line questionnaire designed to help determine your target audience.

Advertising spots on Discount are sold in blocks of 100 per month. Incentives include a 10 percent discount for a 12-month package purchase. If an advertiser chooses the 12-month plan, Discount will produce the commercial as part of the package. Production costs for a 30-second spot usually start around $400.

Stan Grosz, owner of Horn's Photos has been using Discount and is very pleased with the results.

"We advertise Kodak Picture CDs specifically. We've seen an increase in business."

Grosz says Cocola Broadcasting produced the spot and chose the time slot and stations.

"It's been easy," said Grosz. "We used to advertise on cable and I had to track the ads. Now, Gary takes care of it and I don't have to worry about it."

Grosz says Discount may not be the best advertising vehicle for all his products.

"The ads are for a more technical, digital product and I guess younger people who watch the Box are responding. For older people who use regular cameras and just want pictures of their vacation, it might not work as well. Then again, I just ran ads with the Bee and haven't hand any response."

Response to the new advertising package has been tremendous. Leading retailers such as Dan Gamel and A&M Carpets are enthusiastic about the potential boost their ad budgets can recieve from the low cost television advertising. Discount just may usher in a new era for all area businesses, big or small, to advertise on television at affordable prices.

Business Journal article by Chuck Radke
reprinted with permission

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