Of countless programs, events and sales promotions offered
by cable networks each year, only a select few generate $1 million or more in ad revenue
for their affiliates, and fewer still surpass $2 million.
A spot check with network executives yielded at least 20
events or promotions in that local dollar range over the past 12 months, swelling
affiliate coffers by a combined $27 million or more in the past year.
Of those, barely a half-dozen belong to an even more elite
group, raking in a total of $2 million and up -- most of them under the MTV Networks
According to various network and affiliate executives,
systems like events -- especially live award shows -- as well as sweepstakes and other
promotions, because they demonstrate the value of cable programming to local clients and
These attractions not only bring in local revenue from a
mixture of new and existing clients, but they also often serve as
"client-schmooze" opportunities, where operators can offer accounts access to
major network events and personalities.
MTV NETWORKS HAS SEVERAL
"We have several multimillion-dollar generators,"
MTVN vice president of affiliate ad sales Jason Malamud said. Having a dedicated 11-person
local ad-sales team -- in place since November -- should translate into even stronger
local sales growth for its various networks' franchises, he felt: "They can give
them more attention than before," when they split their time between sales and
At MTV: Music Television, "the perennial leader in
local sales is the MTVVideo MusicAwards," Malamud said,
putting its tally last time out at $3.5 million.
That top-rated event's strongest categories
"range from auto dealers to almost any kind of retailer, such as electronics,
clothing stores" -- all of them in hot pursuit of that attraction's 18-to-34
This year, the special will air Sept. 9 -- 9/9/99.
"Our demos are particularly responsive to promotional
opportunities like these," he said. The reason why MTVN does so well with such promos
is that viewers in their 20s are more likely to enter contests and the like than those in
their 40s, he observed.
MTV's Road Rules sales promotion is customized
and "strictly branded to Cox [Communications Inc.]." It was originally developed
for summertime as a way to steer advertisers away from radio, Malamud pointed out.
That strategy has more than paid off, having garnered more
than $2 million per year for at least four straight years. Indeed, MTV executives said Road
Rules tallied $2.5 million in 1995 alone for Cox systems.
Billy Farina, vice president of ad sales at Cox, said only
that the MTV promotion boosted sales by 30 percent last year, its seventh year.
He wouldn't offer a sales figure beyond confirming
that this promotion has long delivered north of $2 million for the MSO. About 70 percent
of those sales last year were incremental, up from 55 percent in 1997, he added.
Yet another event that scores well for MTV is its annual MTV
Movie Awards special. Its next outing, scheduled for primetime June 10, "probably
will clear $1 million," Malamud said.
Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards -- which
the network aired live in primetime May 1, earning that special's highest ratings yet
-- had already cracked the $2 million barrier by late March, when just one-half of
participating cable systems had reported in, Malamud said.
By late May, the total had inched past $2.3 million, he
added. That's up from $1.6 million in 1998 and up sharply from $200,000 in a handful
of markets in its first pursuit of local sales, back in 1995.
That family-appeal event proved to be a sales magnet for
categories ranging from hospitals and auto dealerships to grocery and furniture stores,
A The Coca-Cola Co. bottler in Toledo, Ohio, bought on
Buckeye CableSystem Inc. to tie in with Burger King Corp., the special's network
sponsor. The chain sells Coke in its fast-food outlets. He wouldn't talk dollars, but
he said the buy was rather big considering that Buckeye is a relatively small operator.
Three hospitals made Kids' Choice Awards buys,
on the Northern Ohio Interconnect in Cleveland, the Connecticut Cable Advertising
Interconnect and Tele-Communications Inc.'s (now AT&T Broadband & Internet
Services) system in Boise, Idaho.
Many operators use that event -- one of Nick's biggest
ratings draws of each year -- to break new categories, Malamud said. Others also use it to
close long-term deals. Several Six Flags Theme Parks Inc. locations, for instance, bought
as part of annual local buys, he added.
EVERGREEN PROMOS ALSO DELIVER
While the Kids Choice Awards is a time-locked event,
various off-the-shelf or "evergreen" promotions also fare well in terms of
delivering local dollars to Nick affiliates. Nick's costumed characters tour, led by Rugrats,
toted $2 million-plus in local sales, Malamud estimated.
Last year, that program tallied $2.3 million, he said,
despite the fact that only 30 percent of participating affiliates had reported figures to
the network so far. Having Mars Inc. as the national Rugrats tour sponsor helped to
attract some grocery-store buys at the affiliate level, he added.
The network's preliminary count for its
"GameLab" tour in 1998 is $1.5 million thus far, he said.
Nickelodeon has just begun a new tour event, the "All
That Music & More Festival," designed to promote its All That series,
while also showcasing kid-appeal bands like 98 Degrees, he added. Johnson & Johnson is
a national sponsor of the tour, which is due to hit 40 markets this summer.
These events and promotions offer local accounts
considerable off-channel visibility, which Malamud called an especially important lure
since Nick's local avails are highly limited -- one minute per hour.
At VH1, Divas Live '99 -- the primetime concert
special that became VH1's highest rated program in April -- for the second year
raised funds for "Save the Music," the network's pro-social effort linked
to public schools' music programs.
The special -- the all-star lineup of which included Tina
Turner, Cher and Elton John -- brought in $1.7 million for affiliates.
Prior to last year, the network ran VH1 Honors
annual specials saluting several superstar acts for their altruism. VH1 Honors,
since merged into Divas Live, had tallied $1.4 million in local revenues in 1995.
Then there's VH1's off-the-shelf sales promotion
linked to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Since VH1 now has a long-term
coverage contract for its annual induction ceremonies in March, Malamud said, that could
well grow into another big-bucks producer for affiliates.
In the future, he added, that promotion will likely carry
the Behind the Music theme as a hook linking it to VH1's series of that name.
EVEN RETRO NET SCORES
Even fledgling TV Land is getting into the fray. Malamud
hopes that its "Ultimate Fan Search" -- yet another affiliate tie-in road show
-- will become MTVN's latest lucrative local sales vehicle. "The hope is to
create a live franchise like GameLab," but for older demographics, he said.
By fall, the Ultimate Fan Search will have toured shopping
malls in 16 markets as a live trivia contest. After stops in markets from Denver to
Washington, D.C. -- with MSOs like AT&T Broadband, MediaOne Group Inc. and Comcast
Corp. on board in several markets -- TV Land will tape the final contest for showing as a
Due in October or November, that special will mark TV
Land's first foray into original programming, vice president of affiliate marketing
Tracy Lawrence said.
Executives at other networks were less forthcoming than
those from MTVN. Many avoided estimating dollar amounts, maintaining that they were either
still tabulating results for some promotions or that they lacked sufficient affiliate
Although systems have been quick to complain when such
promotions are offered with insufficient lead time for proper planning, some networks
countered that operators, by not completing questionnaires, make it harder for programmers
to be more responsive to their needs the next time around.
Other networks also weighed in with projects in the $1
Comedy Central cited its most recent Super Bowl
promotion, "Win Ben Stein's Tickets to the Big Game," as having generated
$1.8 million or more for 100 affiliates, versus $750,000 from 50 affiliates for last
year's "Take a Supermodel to the Big Game."
Lifetime Television's multipronged annual
"Fighting Breast Cancer: Our Lifetime Commitment" campaign, encompassing network
programming and local taggable spots, garnered $1.5 million last fall, with the network
claiming that its 1,400 affiliates represent a new record in affiliate-participation
Among the categories lifting last fall's campaign past
$1 million in affiliate sales were hospitals/doctors, health-care insurance, pharmacies
and health-food stores.
Although Fighting Breast Cancer began as a difficult
project to sell, Lifetime director of local ad sales Mary Krueger said it has now topped
$1 million for at least two years, and now, the network is thinking about spreading it to
year-round to attract annual buys.
To do so, it'll produce "generic,"
health-related taggable spots, she explained. And for the second year, Lifetime will lure
sporting-goods and apparel retailers with a Ladies Professional Golfers Association
"Tournament of Champions for Breast Awareness," she noted.
On the system side, Krueger said, Lifetime encourages
operators to pitch Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury dealers to tie in with that
automaker's national sponsorship. "That's been happening more and
more," she added. MediaOne and AT&T Broadband -- the parent company of which has
a deal to buy MediaOne -- were "neck and neck in dollar volume" for this
campaign, she said, lamenting that "MediaOne is disappearing."
At CBS Cable, director of local ad sales Jay Jordan
said Country Music Television's five touring trucks -- with a sixth due later this
year -- have helped tie-in affiliates to amass total local sales of "well over $1
million" over the course of a year.
Auto dealers, shopping malls and restaurants are among the
categories buying in, he said, adding that The Nashville Network added its own big truck
two months ago.
TNN's "Racing Thunder" summer sweepstakes --
which has seen participating markets double to 66 in its fifth year -- is "on pace to
deliver at least $2 million," Jordan estimated.
This sweepstakes -- which offers trips to two auto-racing
events in the fall as prizes -- draws auto-supply stores and car dealers, plus some
grocery and other retail clients, he added.
Scripps Networks' vice president of local ad
sales, Janice Brandon, said the company is "well on its way" to a goal of $5
million in 1999 local sales, and "we'll definitely hit our number."
Two reasons why, she said, are Home & Garden
Television's annual "Dream Home Giveaway," which brought in $1 million to
affiliates in the first quarter via Lane Furniture Co. dealers; and Food Network's
"Food Bites," a package of one-dozen food tips sponsored by Kraft Foods.
The latter, which began in the fourth quarter of 1998 at
Los Angeles interconnect Adlink, is now rolling out to other interconnects. It'll
expand to as many as 20 taggable spots, she said, and ultimately add another $1 million to
Scripps' 1999 local revenue total.
At Discovery Networks U.S., vice president of
marketing Lori McFarling said its durable "Shark Week" and its newer
"Eco-Challenge" events are among those sparking $1 million-plus for Discovery
Channel affiliates' coffers.
To help with future planning, she said, Discovery does
"aggressive postmortems" to gauge such events' sales impact.
Without divulging specific figures, director of local ad
sales Megan Rock and senior manager of national promotions Kelleigh Dulaney said these
promos enable affiliates to break new clients and categories -- well beyond aquariums and
scuba retailers in the case of Shark Week.
Discovery Channel affiliates have booked Toyota Motor Sales
USA's Lexus division auto dealers, banks and financial accounts seeking upscale
audiences, Rock said of Shark Week.
Executives from Time Warner CityCable in New York City to
Cable Advertising of San Antonio to Adlink have lauded Shark Week as a proven sales lure.
In addition, Discovery customizes local sales initiatives
-- "Cox Kids on Camera," for example, a program that links Discovery Kids with
Cox -- McFarling said. About 95 percent of Cox systems took part last year, with more
expected this year, she added. Farina said only that the program generated higher sales in
its first outing, last year, than any previous tailor-made promotion.
ESPN senior vice president of affiliate sales and
marketing Sean Bratches included the network's National Football League and Summer X
Games promotions among the elite with local revenues beyond $1 million, although he said
he couldn't quote specific numbers.
Its "Bristol University" NFL-sweepstakes
promotion, in which 1,100 operators participated last fall (including all of the top 15
MSOs), was ESPN's most successful yet, Bratches said. Its 1998 X Games promotion also
drew 1,100 systems.
Fox Family Channel vice president of affiliate sales
Shirley Hill -- noting that her network's local ad-insertion count just rose by 4.3
million homes in the first quarter, to 51.3 million -- felt that the promotion supporting Michael
Jordan: An American Hero, an original movie that ran in late-April primetime, would
top $1 million in local sales.
At A&E Network, officials said its sales
promotions tied to the four primetime Horatio Hornblower movies shown in April will
likely top $1 million when all of the affiliate data are in.
E! Entertainment Television officials said the same
of that network's Academy Awards promotion.