DirecTV Inc. plans to reward its 7 million subscribers with
a free Tom Petty concert, scheduled to premiere Saturday (July 17) at 9 p.m.
"Live at the Fillmore," taped in San Francisco in
February, will run for 90 minutes on DirecTV's pay-per-view channel 101 and PrimeStar by
DirecTV's channel 136. Several rebroadcasts are scheduled throughout the month.
Petty's is the third free exclusive concert from the
direct-broadcast satellite provider, following the Rolling Stones in 1997 and Shania Twain
"We try to come up with stars who have broad
appeal," DirecTV senior vice president of programming Stephanie Campbell said, adding
that Petty is no teenybopper. DirecTV tries to sign artists of interest to both existing
and potential subscribers.
Campbell said negotiations with musicians can be
complicated because many of them are worried about the quality of sound on televised
concerts -- "something they don't need to worry about with DirecTV," she added.
The Tom Petty concert will be broadcast in Dolby Digital
surround sound, which means that the sound quality will be high even for subscribers who
don't own Dolby Digital-capable receivers, Campbell said. In addition, the show will be
shot from eight different camera angles.
"People who watch this would tend to have renewed
interest in watching music over DirecTV," Campbell predicted.
DirecTV developed the free concerts mainly as a customer-loyalty and retention tool, but
Campbell said that because the concerts are promoted nationally, "It has a halo
effect" for nonsubscribers, too.
The concert will be advertised in national consumer
magazines and local newspapers. But the bulk of the promotions will be done on-air through
cross-channel spots; a dedicated barker show on the day of the concert; and special spots
during DirecTV's original series, In Tune, and rock documentary 400 Days,
which DirecTV will broadcast for all seven days in advance of the concert.
The Music Choice digital-audio service has also been
featuring cuts from Petty's new album for the past month. And DirecTV will back up the
event with links on its Web site and notices in bills and its printed programming guide.
Campbell said it's natural for a programming provider to
pay special attention to promoting its exclusive programming. "There's a natural
tendency to want people to know you have programming that's differentiated from what's
available elsewhere," she added.
While Campbell conceded that consumers are not likely to
buy DBS dishes for just one free concert, she said she hopes word-of-mouth has begun to
spread about the range of original and exclusive programming available on DirecTV.
DirecTV commissioned Action Adventure Network to produce
several original series, the first of which is already headed into syndication.
And a "best of" Johnny Carson PPV series runs
until October. Last week, DirecTV ran a free preview to remind subscribers that the Carson
series was available.