ABC Family has put some new packages for affiliates and consumers under its annual holiday promotion and programming tree this year.
The channel’s “25 Days of Christmas” programming stunt, now in its seventh year, will encompass some 150 hours of holiday-themed shows across all dayparts from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, including 75 hours of primetime fare.
ABC Family has added several components to the national campaign tied to a viewer sweepstakes, most notably a doubling of the grand prize for the local ad-sales sweepstakes effort to $50,000. That effort already has generated $4.2 million, versus $4 million a year ago.
There’s also an interactive greetings tie-in program with Comcast Corp. that will give viewers an opportunity to send on-air or online messages to family and friends.
Ron Hebshie, director of affiliate sales and marketing for ABC Cable Networks Group, said cable systems reaching some 59 million subscribers (up from 52 million last year), are on board and the network can still accommodate latecomers.
In addition to doubling the grand-prize money and adding portable DVD players for the local-ad sales promotion, Hebshie said ABC Family has widened the number of local prize markets and the initiative’s window from three weeks. The New York Interconnect and Adlink are also in the mix for the first time.
“Affiliates said they wanted greater flexibility this year in terms of when they could run the local ad sales promotion, so we’ve extended it to a seven-week period,” said Hebshie. “We also upped the ante in terms of local prizing. We don’t want this promotion to ever get antiquated,” he added, noting his group typically begins receiving queries about the upcoming annual promotion in April.
Through Nov. 22, Hebshie said ABC Family’s local ad-sales affiliates had secured over 500 retailers for the promotion, including Applebee’s, Holiday Inn, Baskin-Robbins and L.L. Bean, which are equipped with sweepstakes entry boxes and window clings, while staffers wear buttons announcing 25 Days.
Where available, outlets run a DVD programming loop for the stunt.
To help build awareness, ABC Family is sending out spots, customized to reflect MSO high-speed offerings like Time Warner Cable’s Road Runner and Adelphia Communications Corp.’s PowerLink. It has also created charity promos that MSOs can customize to their organization of choice during this season of giving.
Another new affiliate feature ABC Family is helping to create this year is a video e-mail application with Comcast. The network is lending characters and content that can be “skinned” within the MSO’s messaging endeavor, according to Hebshie. To boost awareness, Comcast will tout this video e-mail feature, as well as stunt tune-in, at 20 mall kiosks around the country.
Nationally, the “25 Gifts of Christmas Sweepstakes” this year includes Wal-Mart Stores, SC Johnson, General Mills and JC Penney as daily sponsors. To enter the sweepstakes, viewers are directed on-air to the network’s Web site (www.abcfamily.com). A winner is chosen daily from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, culminating with a $25,000 Visa gift card.
To support the national sweepstakes and tune-in efforts, the network has secured national and spot cable buys; in-theater trailers (5,000 screens); plus national (People and Star magazines) and local print (newspapers). ABC Family will also run watch-and-listen radio promotions in 25 key markets, driven by DJ surprise gift packages over a 10-day period.
ABC Family is also playing off its family ties. Promo spots will air on SoapNet and ABC, as well as on the broadcast network’s outdoor video screen in New York’s Times Square. Signage and in-room promos can be found at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts.
Combining paid media of more than $5 million, Walt Disney Co. exposure, cross-channel tune-in promos and local ad sales spots, ABC Family vice president of brand marketing John Rood placed the campaign’s value in excess of $30 million, the biggest ever for the stunt.
Heading the holiday programming list is a pair of original movies. The stunt begins Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. (ET) with the U.S. premiere of Blizzard, which marked LaVar Burton’s directorial debut. It features Brenda Blethyn, Christopher Plummer and the voice talents of Whoopi Goldberg in a tale of young ice skater and an enchanted reindeer.
Another big show for ABC Family is original telepic Snow, premiering Dec. 12 and starring Tom Cavanaugh (Ed) and Ashley Williams (Good Morning Miami).
“25 Days of Christmas” is also sprinkled with popular animated specials like The Little Drummer Boy and The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold, animated by Rankin Bass.
Those characters served as the inspiration for the stop-motion Santa character, found on-air, online and in stunt promotional materials, which was devised by Chiodo Bros., the company behind the marionettes in the theatrical Team America: World Police.