Court Affiliate Program Goes Mobile Again


More than 20 large and small cable systems are gearing up to host events that will feature skits about a stolen blueberry pie, booths where concerned parents can get their kids fingerprinted and plugs for allergy medicine.

Court TV officials say its second Mobile Investigation Unit tour has a little something for everyone, including local operators who are selling location sponsorships to malls and other advertisers for $15,000 to $50,000 apiece, in addition to revenue they’ll collect from an attendant local-ad sales tour campaign.

Unlike last year’s effort, which was run from kiosks, Court TV’s plans will be driven by a recreational vehicle adorned with its brand, as well as that of national sponsor, Novartis Inc’s Triaminic unit, which will tout its AllerChews allergy medicine. The tour is scheduled from May through September, a span that coincides with peak allergy season, noted vice president of ad sales marketing Jennifer Caserta.

In addition to stopping at venues booked by local operators — such as Louisville, Ky., where Insight Communications Co. sold a local sponsorship to Churchill Downs racetrack — the RV will cruise by local TV stations.

“We get a lot of local press out of it, and that translates into good marketing for us,” said Court TV executive vice president of ad sales and strategic marketing Dan Levinson. “We’ll be able to pull up in the parking lot of any of the local broadcast stations and they can go on the [RV] and see the experiments, as opposed to bringing a crew out to the location,” Levinson said.

At each tour stop, the audience will be asked to play along in an investigation led by Court TV’s on-site talent “Frank Lee Forensics,” who walks them through a caper involving the Kloos Family, and a blueberry pie that was stolen from their grandmother’s windowsill. The Kloos portion of the skit is prerecorded.

Parents can also get digital fingerprints and photos of their kids taken between shows. And Court TV runs a separate, yearlong affiliate tour enabling parents to get copies of their progeny’s fingerprints.

In 2003, the digital fingerprinting tour generated about $2 million for cable operators, said Court TV vice president of ad sales and strategic marketing Tom Wolfe. The MIU tour alone generated about $1.2 million for affiliates, Wolfe estimated.

Operators have to run 750 20/10 taggable cross-channel spots, though, Wolfe said that number is negotiable depending upon the market size.

Many major MSOs are participating, including Adelphia Communications Corp., Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Insight and Time Warner Cable.