Mag Rack Eyes Advertising

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Rainbow Media Services’ fledgling video-on-demand service, Mag Rack, will begin seeking advertising for the first time.

The 7 million-subscriber service -- which has struggled to gain distribution on cable systems for its complete lineup of video magazines, which range from “Aviator’s World” to “Yoga Retreat” -- is also reformatting its distribution strategy.

And for the first time, Mag Rack has allowed systems to distribute individual magazines, picking and choosing, a la carte, according to Dan Ronayne, senior vice president and general manager for Mag Rack and its sister sports-oriented VOD service, Sportskool.

Ronayne said more than 23 million households in the United States can now receive programming on-demand, which provides more opportunities for viewers to sample Mag Rack programming.

Plus, that growth has spawned interest from advertisers, which see VOD as an opportunity to reach very particular types of viewers, from gardeners to bird lovers to snowboarders.

As a result, Mag Rack is aggressively pitching agencies to buy sponsorships and advertisements within its programming, according to Mag Rack and Sportskool VP of integrated marketing and sales Phil Summers, who predicted that nearly all of Mag Rack’s programming will have some advertising element attached to it by 2007.

On the other hand, VOD growth means more competition, and in order to combat this, Ronayne said the network has altered its distribution strategy to allow operators like Time Warner Cable to cherry-pick categories as a prelude to launching the full Mag Rack service.

Time Warner in January launched the company’s Kids Club programming cluster as part of its free-on-demand lineup, and it plans to add other Mag Rack programming later this year.

The company also invested in exclusive, original-programming fare that it hopes will differentiate the service from other on-demand services.

In so doing, the network has attracted several well-known personalities to help develop original fare. Actor John Lithgow, for example, will star in and produce a block of preschool programming dubbed “Paloozaville.”

For more on Mag Rack, please see R. Thomas Umstead’s story on page 12 of Monday’s issue of Multichannel News.

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