Animal Planet is going to the dogs, literally. Borrowing a
little from the Olympic Games and professional sports, the network is packaging the Animal
Planet National Dog Championships as a quarterly primetime event.
Although the network has signed Iams Co. and Bayer Corp. as
major sponsors of the package, Iams is described by network executives as more of "a
partner," since it will play a key role in promoting the events. Iams is touting its
Eukanuba premium dog-food brand, and Bayer is advertising its Advantage flea collar.
The idea behind all of this packaging, according to Clark
Bunting, senior vice president and general manager of the fledgling network, is to appeal
to more than "die-hard dog-lovers," much as the Olympics swells its audience
with casual sports fans.
Locally, the network has been encouraging affiliates to
sell local tie-in avails to pet stores, but a spokesman said it's too soon to
determine how operators are faring with that.
The Eukanuba Cup will be awarded early next year to the
owner of the "grand champion" -- the dog that emerges as the cumulative
Iams and Animal Planet are also jointly promoting the
championship series on the Web. Additional off-channel Iams support will include mailings
to breeders and veterinarians and space in its own magazine, You & Your Dog,
which is mailed quarterly to 1 million dog-owners, breeders and vets, Lesli Rotenberg,
vice president of marketing at Animal Planet, said last week.
Moreover, Iams is developing a tie-in consumer sweepstakes,
to start in the fourth quarter, which will include displays at more than 17,000 pet
stores, Rotenberg said.
Buoyed by its initial ratings, the network is now seeking
other sponsors, especially in the minivan/sport-utility-vehicle sector. Rotenberg said
network executives hit on that idea after noticing that those vehicles dominated the
parking lots at major dog shows. Packaged goods and family- and female-skewed products are
other targets, she said.
The first event in this championship package, the Baltimore
Dog Show, got off to a strong start May 3, with that 90-minute special averaging a 0.7
Nielsen Media Research rating. Animal Planet's top-rated show remains Emergency
Vets, with a 1.0 a few months ago.
The network is also adapting other proven TV formats The
latest is Animal Court, which, sources said, is in development, with Judge Wapner
of ThePeople's Court due to preside.
In other news at the network, Animal Planet has begun
negotiations with prospects in several key categories about providing tie-in marketing
support for its new, 80-foot "Animal Planet Rescue" truck, as it tours various
affiliate markets (when it's not engaged in animal rescues during floods and other
The network is also planning a sweepstakes next year tied
to its Lassie series, in which it will give away Lassie puppies, Rotenberg said.