In a form of marketing guerrilla warfare, FX has been
promoting The X Show on Comedy Central's similarly skewed The Man Show this summer by
buying local time on that network's affiliates.
Fox News Channel and CNBC have done much the same, plugging
themselves during the local avails of Cable News Network carriers.
It's a strategy that's considered either shrewd or devious,
depending on one's viewpoint.
FX's end-run of promoting The X Show via Comedy Central
affiliates was no laughing matter to executives at Comedy. One official recently used an
unprintable expletive in reference to FX. After Comedy refused to take the FX schedule,
the official said, FX put those spots in front of Man Show viewers by buying local avails
in an unspecified number of markets.
The Man Show is Comedy's second-highest-rated series,
particularly among men 18 to 34 and 18 to 49. It ranks behind only South Park, according
to Nielsen Media Research ratings through July.
FX sister network Fox News Channel adopted a similar
strategy, promoting itself during the local time of CNN affiliates in about a half-dozen
markets since its launch, a FNC spokesman said. For the fledgling news service, the buy
made sense because FNC wanted to increase its audience. The best way to do that was to get
the message onto the higher-rated CNN to broaden awareness among that channel's upscale
"Most networks won't let you buy time-specific,"
he said, meaning spots that plug a specific date and time.
A Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. spokesman said, "No
network takes spots from other networks, cable or broadcast." Fox News has not been
alone in running promo spots on CNN affiliates, he added, citing CNBC as another network
that has done so. "You can tell they're local because they come up on the
half-hour," he said.
In fact, "we've been ambushed so much that we've
struck back with the same approach," the TBSI spokesman said. The trouble is that, in
the case of FNC, "That guerrilla marketing strategy isn't as open to us because Fox
News' distribution is so small that many systems don't insert on [that network]."
Comedy and CNN might not have been made aware of the buys
had they not included spots on Time Warner Cable of New York City.
At MediaOne Group Inc., director of ad sales development
Pete Moran said last week, "I'd call it target marketing rather than guerrilla
marketing," because the networks are matching their buys "to the correct
He added, "That practice has been going on a long time
-- for years."
Other networks and operators were unreachable or would not
comment at press time.