Captive Channel quietly builds national footprint

April 9, 2008 by Dave Haynes

In the run-up to my JADN presentation I made a few phone calls around to some network operators who I was told I should mention – Toronto’s Captive Channel among them.

VERY quietly, this company has built up a screen network that has cornered the independent and small chain grocery channel in Canada. What’s interesting is that they have done so largely without making the capital investment, with the screens and related gear carried on a lease by the grocers.

It’s the polar opposite of most networks we are seeing in retail these days, in which third parties are negotiating access to the venue that includes the network paying the cost of the gear and operations, and also handing off a revenue share.

One of the reasons they’ve had success in this direction is the pedigree of the company, which has some key people who come out of the grocery business, get it, and know how to work with these retailers.

The company offers a turnkey solution to the small grocers, and part of the screen is devoted to in-store promotions. “They get the value, in terms of sales lift,” explained CEO Zee Najar.

There are some things I don’t like about them (the screens are typically ceiling-suspended and above normal sightlines, and the screen layout has too much happening).

But they have also, more recently, started heading where I think they should be with full screen editorial content about food and health — the sort of thing that is far more relevant to shoppers than news headlines and can also be sponsored.

I’d lose the news headlines and weather reports in a heartbeat to make the ad window larger, and also give more pop to the store promotions. I don’t go to Marilu’s in my neighbourhood to catch up on world events, and when I was driving over to my grocer, I have time to get a weather forecast by radio. What I could OFTEN use when in there, however, are ideas on what the heck to make for dinner.

Then again, the content offer as it stands is clearly making the grocers happy.

It is a bit of an open secret that the company has bagged a deal with a large national grocer, under the same sort of terms, but the agreement is not public, as yet (which I will respect).

That will greatly add to the footprint of the company and has the potential to open them up to more national media buys.

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