'MonsterFest' Scares Up 1,200 Ops


American Movie Classics has signed a monstrous 1,200 affiliates to participate in its latest Halloween promotion, this year dubbed "MonsterFest 24/7."

That record number is well above the 840 that tied in last fall, AMC Networks executive vice president of distribution and affiliate marketing Kim Martin said last week.

AMC's stunt will be fleshed out by more than 50 horror films, due from Oct. 25 through Oct. 31. Participants have agreed to run a 30-second, cross-channel tune-in spot 400 times between Oct. 7 and Oct. 31; the promo includes a message about high-speed cable modems.

The programmer has scheduled its biggest national campaign yet for MonsterFest, using cross-channel promos, online, outdoor, network radio, print, cinema and in-store signage.

The first ad will break in the Sept. 29 New York Times Magazine, followed by the October issues of Entertainment Weekly, Fangoria, LA Weekly
and a four-color national ad insert in the middle of TV Guide, which an AMC spokeswoman claimed is a first for a broadcaster or cable network.

AMC will also place ads in newspapers' TV supplements in the top 20 markets and wrap a four-color ad around the delivery bag of TheNew York Times
on Oct. 25, a spokeswoman said. It'll also promote MonsterFest through two sister Cablevision Systems Corp. properties: Clearview Cinemas, which will screen spots, and consumer-electronics retailer The Wiz, which will post promotional signs.

In addition, AMC's "Plasma Powered Sweepstakes" — a watch-and-win contest running both on-air and online — will bolster tune-in for the fright fest. Consumers will be directed to watch AMC's 8 p.m. horror film for clues to answer trivia questions on its Web site. Those with the correct answers will be entered into a random drawing for a daily grand prize — a 42-inch plasma-screen TV set — over the seven days of the stunt.

Data Sales Focus

At the operator level, the bulk of AMC's marketing efforts will drive sell-in of affiliates' high-speed Internet-access services. That worked well last fall, when it became the focal point of AMC's promotion for the first time, Martin said.

Comcast Corp. and Adelphia Communications Corp. will be the only MSOs using AMC-customized materials on a nationwide basis to promote high-speed services via MonsterFest, Martin said.

Comcast's promotion will drive consumers to 23 high-speed-data mall kiosks in a dozen major markets. The MSO and AMC will partner on an exclusive sweepstakes via Comcast's customer newsletter, with the prizes including a 27-inch TV set, a laptop computer and six months of free Comcast cable and high-speed services.

Aside from running 150 spots just for its own sweepstakes, Comcast will use local newspapers and direct mail.

Comcast national director of retention marketing Stacy Gordon said that that promotion should lead to "a meaningful number of sales at our mall events."

Adelphia will trumpet its own Internet contest via promos and direct mail as a way to bolster retail trials and sales in its markets; MP3 players will be among the prizes.

Charter Communications Inc. will implement "a pilot program in a handful of markets" that will combine cable-modem promotion efforts with a basic-cable acquisition campaign, Martin disclosed.

AMC is looking to help affiliates generate revenues in yet another way. Since it's introducing a full load of commercials on Oct. 1, the network will for the first time be helping its affiliates scare up local ad sales linked to MonsterFest. Martin didn't have a full count of those operators, but said that insertable local ads will reach 23 million of its subscribers.

And AMC has booked General Motors Corp. to sponsor MonsterFest nationally, she added.

Although some affiliates will naturally pursue their local GM dealers, operators are not contractually barred from pursuing dealers of other nameplates, she said.

Among the other sectors AMC suggests operators target: cosmetics, beverages, consumer electronics, retail, packaged goods and entertainment, she said.

Old and New Flicks

Once again, more than 50 horror films will be packaged in the MonsterFest stunt, including several Godzilla
films and such staples as Frankenstein, Dracula,
The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon
and The Mummy
from Universal Studios' horror-classic archives.

But the titles will also include some more contemporary horror flicks, such as Predator 2, Fright Night, The Bride
with Sting and four films from the Halloween
series, an AMC spokeswoman said. AMC also will repeat Backstory: Halloween.

AMC, which first used the Web to promote its Halloween stunt in 1999, will offer trivia and streaming video of film trailers, among other original content, at www.amctv.com.

That site also will give viewers a preview of Short Screamers. That half-hour collection of amateur horror shorts, hosted by director John Carpenter, will bow Oct. 31 on AMC.

When asked if AMC might be mulling similar promotional stunts around other holidays or occasions like Christmas or Valentine's Day, Martin said, "We [at AMC, WE: Women's Entertainment and Muchmusic USA] are always discussing that."