Net Contests Celebrate Viewers' Lives


This year's consumer contests from A&E Television Networks and Hallmark Channel will do more than thrust cable programming into the spotlight — they'll highlight the unique stories of viewers as well.

To mark the 15th anniversary of Biography, AETN will launch its "Claim to Fame" sweepstakes today (March 11). Grand prize is a trip for two to New York and a professionally produced, Biography-style video.

Consumers who sign up for The Biography Channel between March 11 and April 1 are automatically entered into the sweepstakes. The network plans to bring the promotion back in the third quarter.

"Our primary objective is to drive sales for our digital channel, The Biography Channel," said A&E Television Networks affiliate marketing manager Jennifer Ball, adding that the programmer's affiliates have very aggressive digital sales goals.

"There is always an upgrade aspect to our campaigns," said Ball, who noted that affiliates don't typically devote cross-channel space to tune-in spots because that "doesn't meet affiliates' objectives."

A&E will solicit digital sales numbers in the months ahead of the promotion to determine how much of any lift in sales can be attributed to the sweepstakes.

Ball said the prize should stimulate consumer interest, because "everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame."

The biographical video will be produced at A&E's New York City studios for the winner's private use.

In an affiliate ad-sales campaign set to launch in the second quarter, the network plans to award a local grand prize in each participating market. It will include a digital camera and editing kit, so winners can create their own biographical video.

Hallmark Channel recently announced the winner of last month's "Find Your Own Roots" contest, in which entrants sent in a 250-word account of their families' personal history. The sweepstakes was a tie-in to the network's telecast of the groundbreaking TV miniseries Roots.

The winner, Miriam Allred of Hawaii, submitted a story that detailed how she answers her five-year-old daughter's questions about her African-American and Mexican roots.

"The entry is quite poetic," Hallmark Channel senior vice president of marketing Laura Masse said. "It's moving, the way she explains her heritage to her daughter."

Hallmark is still working out the details of the grand prize celebration that will honor the family's ethnic heritage, to be held later this year in California, home to the five-year-old's grandparents.

Last month, Hallmark posted many of the contest's 1,100 entries on its Web site (, because the network wanted to share some of the families' stories with other viewers.

In addition to consumer and affiliate promotions to support the "Find Your Own Roots" campaign, Hallmark reached out to the educational community to encourage entries from children. Teachers downloaded study guides with instructions on how to search genealogy sites for tips on how to research for one's roots.

"It's an integral part of our brand to involve our viewers and to bring their stories to life," Masse said.

Hallmark may use the "Roots" template for future programming-related promotions, she added.