DirecTV Inc. added BET Movies to its "Total Choice Starz!" programming package last Friday, replacing its Starz! Theater West Coast feed.
The Total Choice Starz! package offers 12 Starz Encore Media Group LLC premium-multiplex feeds, including such thematic channels as Action, Mystery, Westerns, Love Stories, True Stories and WAM! America's Kidz Network.
DirecTV is the second direct-broadcast-satellite company to add the three-year-old BET Movies. EchoStar Communications Corp. added the feed to its "Starz! Encore Super Pak" of premium-movie channels in April.
BET Movies director of multicultural marketing Andrew Givens said the programmer would partner with DirecTV to target its African-American subscribers with direct mail and encourage them to upgrade to packages that include the network.
Other upgrade tactics include on-hold messages at DirecTV's call centers, ads in printed programming guides targeted toward DirecTV customers, banner ads on DirecTV's Web site and customer-service-representative training, he added.
"A lot of DirecTV subscribers have called [the CSRs] and said they wanted BET Movies," Givens said.
DirecTV also introduced the channel in its monthly newsletter e-mailed to interested subscribers.
"BET Movies is an outstanding addition to our programming lineup, and it will satisfy a huge demand to showcase the breadth of important African-American film product," DirecTV vice president of programming acquisition Michael Thornton said in a press release.
The deal with DirecTV will bring BET Movies' carriage to more than 20 million DBS and cable homes, Givens said, adding that much of that carriage has come within the past six months.
"We're trying to get BET Movies carriage wherever we can," Givens said. He added that because the network is generally sold as part of a larger Super Pak of Starz Encore channels, most of the carriage opportunity comes when an operator launches digital cable.
In Detroit, which has a significant percentage of African-American households, the local Comcast Corp. system began offering BET Movies even before it launched digital, making it available initially as an analog-premium service for about $11 per month, Givens said. Once the system launched digital, it added other thematic channels from the Super Pak lineup.
To help promote its Pan African Film Festival coverage, BET Movies began a consumer campaign last Wednesday that runs through the end of August, offering subscribers the chance to win a trip for two to Africa during next year's festival.
The network has also enlisted the help of its affiliates to promote its upcoming free-preview weekend, scheduled for October.
"We've doubled our sign-ups from last year's," Givens said, adding that participating affiliates can order BET Movies direct-mail pieces promoting the free-preview weekend.
EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen said last week that the company is negotiating with BET Holdings Inc. to add BET on Jazz to Dish Network's "America's Top 150" programming package.