Many, many years ago, 23 years to be exact, I sold local cable advertising up in Boston. At that time, we sold local ads into 4 national cable networks and (CNN, USA, MTV, and ESPN) and 2 regional sports networks (Sportschannel and NESN). At that time, our pitch was simple, cheap TV advertising into targeted markets. Where radio and print went everywhere in the region, we could target the ad by headend into the markets that mattered. You wanted Boston but not Peabody, MA; done. Ratings were small so repetition was essential. And CPMs were low! We provided an opportunity for the local business to advertise inexpensively on TV, something they couldn't afford to do on broadcast TV. Our leads came from radio and the telephone book. My have times changed.
Today, cable competes for ad dollars with broadcast TV and buys are regional not local. The local business person can no longer afford cable for its message and has gone to the web to advertise. And so cable has found a way to offer that same targeted message today, not just by zip code, but by other demographic variables as well. Will that make cable affordable again to the little guy; probably not. But that is not who cable is targeting. Not anymore.
Cable's local ad audience is actually becoming national! Allowing national ad buyers to effectively target audience demographics across the cable audience. Not just by market, but through a partnership of all the big cable companies: Comcast, Time Warner, Cablevision, etc. Cable wants to take dollars away from the national cable network buy because it can more effectively target its reach and effectiveness. And for cable companies, national advertisers are where the real dollars can be found. Cable programmers never intended their local advertising inventory to be used against them, but that seems to be the case.
And the customer that local cable companies originally sought; they probably can no longer afford to buy cable ads today. They may have more luck going back to their local broadcast network and radio. That is the changing landscape of cable advertising.