Marketing

Starz Pushes ‘Spartacus’ Sampling

1/16/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Starz, looking to stoke interest in
its upcoming Spartacus: Vengeance, will engage in a multiplatform
sampling effort and the release of a Facebook social
game around the gladiator-themed original series.

The premium programmer will begin the sampling
effort in conjunction with affiliates reaching 61.1 million
U.S. multichannel households on Jan. 20.

And Starz Digital Media, the digital and on-demand licensing
arm of Starz, will offer a Facebook video tease of
Spartacus Vengeance: The Game on Jan. 27, when the series
make its linear premiere at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).

PREVIEW PARTNERS

Distributors including Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network,
Cox, Charter, Mediacom, Massillon Cable TV/Clear Picture
Inc., Antietam Cable, BVU and Click! Cable TV will
provide a free preview of the show’s first episode through
a combination of online, Facebook and linear on-demand
platforms, according to Kelly Bumann, senior vice president,
consumer marketing, Starz Media.

She said the providers are being cautious with the sampling
exhibition, given the violent and sexual nature of
the show.

For Starz, the initiatives are aimed at “bringing more people
into the tent. We want to help build awareness, drive
sampling and viewing for the series’ return, and ultimately
as a way for us to add more subscribers,” Bumann said.

Starz is also offering a $25 subscription rebate, an incentive
that essentially gives viewers two free months
with the service.

From an affiliate standpoint, it’s “a way for them to
showcase the value of their new platforms and services,”
Bumann said, adding that such tactics have become
a requirement to help break through the clutter and successfully
launch new shows.

In this case, Spartacus: Vengeance represents the franchise’s
second season, but third iteration. Australian actor
Liam McIntyre is now manning the title role, following the
death of Andy Whitfield. He portrayed the title character in
the premium network’s Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which
bowed in January 2010.

With Whitfield’s health uncertain,
Starz elected to air the six-episode
prequel Gods of the Arena, which
premiered in January 2011. Whitfield
succumbed to a long battle with Non-
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September
2011.

Starz has already committed to another
season of the franchise after
Vengeance.

Bumann said Starz’s launch strategies
have evolved over time, but “we
wouldn’t be as aggressive if we didn’t
have confidence in the show and the
tactics.”

Starz led into the debut of Spartacus:
Blood
and Sand with sampling a
week before its linear bow, which generated
1 million views.

For Gods of the Arena, sampling began
the day after its linear premiere
and still collected 100,000 viewers, according
to Bumann.

The first episode of Spartacus: Vengeance
will be available on Jan. 20 on
www.starz.com/spartacus, on Facebook
at facebook.com/spartacus.starz,
as well as on the DirecTV, Dish and
Charter websites.

With the satellite-TV providers, the premium network, as
was the case with its push behind Kelsey Grammer political
series Boss, will embed the Starz video player into their
respective Facebook walls. That way, Bumann said, Starz
ensures encryption and guards against users “burning copies.”
The approach also gives Starz a way to “track the player’s
success” with the sampling effort.

Starz’s push with Comcast underlines the distributor’s
size and the scope of its services.

“They have the most platforms and the broadest share
of cable subscribers,” noted Bumann. “We’re utilizing
different platforms with
Comcast: www.Xfinitytv.com, the Xfinity TV app for
iPad, iPhones and the iPod
Touch, plus free on demand.
It’s a good taste of
Starz. We’ve always done
well with Comcast.”

GAMING ON FACEBOOK

Starz also hopes that the
new Facebook social media
game performs well.

Spartacus Vengeance: The
Game
builds upon Spartacus:
The Game
(originally
named Spartacus: Gods of the
Arena
), which launched on
Facebook in January 2011. It
garnered some 4 million registered
users and 1.2 million
actives during its peak. Viewers
of the sneak preview video
teaser will be asked to “like”
the game and sign up to be invited
to play once it goes live.

Spartacus Vengeance: The
Game
operates as an entirely
new property by taking players
outside of the arena and ludus walls. As was the case with
its first Spartacus game, the new iteration is built on Large Animal
Game’s proprietary Toga application platform.

October