Dierks Bentley ‘Rides On’ History’s ‘Biker Batt leground’ Campaign

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History thinks so much of upcoming series Biker Battleground Phoenix, launching on July 1, it’s making a little bit of personal marketing history, in terms of how it backs new nonfiction shows.

For one, it’s spending a significant, though undisclosed, sum on “paid media.”

“That’s new for us,” senior vice president of marketing Samantha Maltin told The Wire. “Typically we put paid media behind season-two shows” that have established themselves with viewers. “This was a shift for us.”

Maybe more significantly, she said, much of the marketing effort is aimed at music fans, via Rolling Stone’s website, the online music site Vevo and outdoor festivals such as the CMA Fest. Music is a category History wants to be more involved with in an effort to reach new, younger male viewers.

Centering it all is a partnership with country artist Dierks Bentley. He wrote and performed the show’s theme, Ride On, which features heavily in the campaign.

Bentley is a biker, Maltin said. He’s from Phoenix, and shares a passion for the local motorcycle subculture that is the show’s milieu. Bentley is being paid usage rights for his song and being compensated fairly, Maltin said, but he’s also attracted more editorial coverage from the likes of Rolling Stone and Vevo than a new show normally would get. “We’re getting a pretty big bang for our buck,” she said.

Bentley — who also did a bluegrass music video for History’s American Pickers — has a following and provides entrée into the music realm that Maltin said could be critical in reaching the younger male demographic the channel hopes to reach with the show. Auto genre series have worked well for History, she said. And the ensemble cast of five motorcycle craftsmen, creating machines that sell for six figures, with their personalities and the colorful Phoenix bike culture, made this new show seem worth backing with a relatively high marketing spend.

“All of the pieces of the formula that make up a hit show we felt were there,” Maltin said. “And knock on wood [that] we’re right. We’ll see in a couple of weeks.”

Most elements of the campaign kick off on Tuesday (June 24), including an Xbox 360 arrangement that lets users create customized Biker Battleground avatars on the game platform. An earlier effort with Counting Cars avatars clicked with gamers, Maltin said.

TV Mega-Mergers Spell Big Trouble To One Little Net

Talk about four rolling stones merging into two giant boulders, headed right for your business plan.

RFD-TV founder Patrick Gottsch spelled out the potential impact of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV mergers in a letter to the network’s subscribers, asking them to write to the Federal Communications Commission and urge protection for “independent rural programmers” like his RFD-TV and Rural TV channels.

As he wrote on June 18: Comcast pulled RFD-TV from cable systems in key markets of Colorado and New Mexico last August and won’t restore it, despite an organized letter-writing campaign. (Gottsch last year sent The Wire two giant binders of letters as evidence.)

Comcast carries RFD-TV in 400,000 of 21 million homes served, and TWC carries it in 500,000 of 13 million homes “and is out of contract with our company,” Gottsch said.

AT&T U-verse doesn’t carry RFD-TV at all.

And DirecTV, which carries RFD-TV in SD, doesn’t carry the HD version or Rural TV, “and threatened recently to put RFD-TV on a higher tier requiring customers to pay more for our channel,” Gottsch said. RFD-TV currently has about 40 million subscribers nationwide.

He said his Rural Media Group isn’t against either merger at this time but is lobbying hard in Washington “to raise the support for rural America and rural programming to be protected if these mergers are approved.”

Net Neutrality-Tee: Saving the Internet One Shirt at a Time

Internet-neutrality group Fight for the Future, the same organization whose members protested in person at the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on new neutrality rules last month, has launched a crowd-funded T-shirt drive to raise money to “save the open Internet from the cable companies that want to break and exploit it.”

The campaign kicked off on Teespring.com. The idea is that orders for the shirt are taken online, but nobody has to pay until a minimum goal is reached — the number that covers the cost of the shirts to Teespring. Fight for the Future gets a check representing the profits once that goal is reached and the shirts are manufactured and shipped.

Last year, following the death of Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters on June 30, 2013, 28,000 tees were sold on Teespring to raise money for the families of those Arizona crew members.

The net-neutrality shirt (pictured) sports the motto “Don’t tread on my Internet,” illustrated by an Ethernet cable coiled, snake-like, ready to strike anyone who tries, a la the historic Gadsden’s Flag created during the Revolutionary War.

Cable operators have repeatedly said they have no interest in breaking the Internet; exploiting it, in the sense of capitalizing on their hundreds of billions in network investment, is another thing.

In terms of fast lanes and slow lanes, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association has said its members are not interested in paid prioritization.

At press time, 23 shirts (at $20 each) had been ordered; 50 shirts would actually trigger their manufacture and delivery, profit to Teespring and donations to the campaign.

Elsewhere on the neutrality-meets-popular-culture front, comedian John Oliver was not letting up on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler over new neutrality rules, or more specifically, over Wheeler’s response to Oliver’s riff on the issue, in which he said Wheeler regulating communications as a former cable lobbyist (and a former wireless phone lobbyist) was akin to putting a dingo in charge of the baby.

Wheeler joked in a press conference following the piece that he was not a dingo. That set Oliver off again, with a shorter bit on Last Week Tonight, his HBO show, suggesting Wheeler protesteth too much and probably was, in fact, a dingo trying to pretend he wasn’t. Sideby- side photos illustrated the point.

The chairman’s office had no comment on whether he was really, really not a dingo.

— John Eggerton

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