'Capturing' Buys

3/07/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Lifetime Movie Network has launched its first local ad sales promotion, cranking up the marketing machine behind its first original miniseries, The Capture of the Green River Killer.

Several factors collided in a “perfect storm” to make this the right time for such a promotion, said vice president of distribution Sue Panzer. For one, LMN's ratings are on the rise: the network completed six straight months of double-digit growth, she said. Affiliates passing 59 million homes now insert ads on the network, she added.

Plus, Lifetime Movie Network has a compelling piece of content: the miniseries is produced by Stan Brooks, who helped AMC collect a basket of Emmy Awards with another miniseries, Broken Trail.

The Capture of the Green River Killer depicts Sheriff David Reichert's 20-year-long hunt to capture a serial killer who terrorized young women in the Seattle area.

The producer also indicated that the actors involved in the project, which includes Tom Cavanagh (Ed), Sharon Lawrence (NYPD Blue) and Amy Davidson (8 Simple Rules … for Dating My Teenage Daughter) would cooperate in promotional efforts. Lawrence and Davidson joined Lifetime Entertainment CEO Andrea Wong at last week's Cable Positive benefit dinner in New York, an indication of Lifetime's desire to promote the miniseries.

LMN has signed up affiliates to participate in the promotion from the Top 25 television markets, including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications.

The network rewarded top advertisers and salespeople from those affiliates this past weekend (March 6 to 9) with a trip to Washington, D.C., for a screening of the miniseries, attended by the filmmakers.

Affiliates decided whether to give the trip to an advertiser, or use it as a sales incentive in-house.

An affiliate representative and a guest from 20 participating markets were provided with airfare, ground transportation and hotel accommodations.

Before the event, Panzer said that Reichert, now a Democratic congressman from Washington state, would also attend the screening, so the network expected other elected officials to attend as well. Attendees participated in a question-and-answer session with the stars afterwards.

The weekend of activities concluded with a Lifetime-hosted farewell dinner at a waterfront Georgetown restaurant.

To earn a place on the Washington guest list, affiliates have agreed to air 300 on-air spots to promote the miniseries, to air March 30 and 31. The spots will be inserted through March 31.

The weekend fit the programmer's goal of creating a unique opportunity that a local system could afford to execute on its own, Panzer said. While the network is happy about kicking off ad-sales promotions, it doesn't know when it will schedule No. 2, Panzer said. The Writers Guild of America strike crimped LMN's original programming pipeline, she said, but it hopes to offer another promotion late this year.

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