Discovery Promos Add Some Dino Might

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Executives at Discovery Communications Inc. lately seem to be chanting the mantra, 'Local, local, local,' as they press ahead with promotions involving their cable networks' affiliate partners and their own retail division.

Their latest promotion efforts, cutting across both Discovery Channel Stores and the affiliates, are tied to Discovery Channel's July 15 primetime event, When Dinosaurs Roamed America. The two-hour, computer-animated special follows up on last year's ratings hit, Walking With Dinosaurs.

The centerpiece of the promotion is an affiliate sweepstakes that has attracted 360 operators nationwide, Discovery Networks U.S. promotion director Beth Meyer said last week. There's also a related 12-market mall tour, running from June 30 through July 14. At each stop, an operator co-hosts an interactive exhibit at a Discovery Channel Stores outlet.

AT&T Broadband is participating in four markets, Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. in three, Time Warner Cable in two and Adelphia Communications Corp. in one. They also will have the chance to install kiosks in those stores, Discovery executives said.

The sweepstakes offers one grand-prize trip — a 12-day dinosaur-themed excursion trip encompassing a "dino dig" in Colorado's Badlands and touring dinosaur exhibits in London and Paris.

"We want to make sure our promotions have flexibility," Meyer said. "This promotion has lots of different legs to it, to help affiliates." Its primary goal is driving operators' digital, cable-modem and basic-cable businesses, she said, but there are also subscriber acquisition/retention aspects.

There has been "huge demand" for the support materials, including animated flash presentations for use on affiliates' Web sites.

At retail outlets, the materials include window clings and a point-of-sale display with a motion-detector that causes a dinosaur to roar when consumers walk by.

DCI — which first entered the retail world in 1995 and now owns 200 stores — is exploring other initiatives that may bring its retail stores and its affiliates closer together.

Discovery Networks affiliate marketing directors Melinda Miller and George Lima confirmed that the network was in talks with Cox about a co-branded-store concept in Providence, R.I. They described that as "unique, different from what's been done in the past," but could say nothing more until that agreement is finalized, in perhaps six weeks.

Should that test case ultimately prove successful, Cox's director of sales and distribution Beth Denning said, the MSO would expand elsewhere.

Miller and Lima said the chain is in its fourth year of offering co-branded signage and product-demo opportunities.

"We've had good participation" from the four-year-old program, Miller said, noting that participating MSOs get signage (such as "Watch Discovery Channel on Adelphia") on Discovery's in-store TV monitors.

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