Heymann Looks to Buttress 'Biography'

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In establishing its Biography Channel group last week, A&E Television Networks will look to accelerate the marketing effort behind its signature series brand.

For senior vice president and general manager Thomas Heymann — the man placed in charge of the new entity — that means increasing penetration for the three-year-old A&E Network spinoff. The network expanded to Canada this fall.

"My biggest priority is to increase distribution," Heymann said. "That's our biggest focus. That's not to say the Web site and magazine aren't important.

"The idea is to bring all our brand resources together in one place for better leverage," he added — especially in terms of marketing.

Heymann, who was vice president of AETN Consumer Products and has held various posts with the programmer since 1992, declined to divulge distribution for Biography Channel since its fall 1998 launch.

Three other AETN executives will join the Biography Channel brand group: John Hartinger as vice president of marketing (he held that title at AETN Interactive); Deirdre O'Hearn as director of programming (formerly an AETN senior producer); and Paulette McLeod, who remains as vice president, general manager and editor-in-chief of Biography
magazine. The magazine, which McLeod launched in 1997, now has a paid circulation of 700,000 subscribers.

"This brand has proven to be very flexible," said Heymann.

The Biography
name has already been attached to home videos, books and a trivia game.

One of the objectives of the newly formed brand operation, he said, will be "differentiating the network from the series. The network is a 24-hour service that gives viewers a 360-degree look at people."

The new team will be integrally involved in marketing the 15th anniversary of the original Biography
series, due in April of 2002, he noted.

"A task force is working on that, but we're not ready to talk about it," Heymann said. "It's still in the baking process."

Asked if there would be extensive marketing support that might include a sweepstakes, he said, "You can count on it."

Before that program unfolds, the Biography
name will be quite visible. In November, an integrated marketing and ad-sales effort will involve both A&E and History Channel. History will bow American Classics, a series that focuses on American icons ranging from Marilyn Monroe and the '70s "happy face" to Uncle Sam and classic cars. At the same time, A&E will tie in with a Biography
week themed "Great American Biography Classics."

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