Networks Love Life in Spin-Off City


A number of cable programmers, having secured channel space and a place in the hearts of viewers, are bent on expanding their brands' presence onto retail shelves.

Virtually every network has a Web site and many also have spawned spin-off networks, from A&E Television Networks' The Biography Channel to Lifetime Television's Lifetime Real Women.

Many also are getting off-channel exposure on store shelves via scores of consumer products, from magazines to toys.

More ad assets

Looked at from another angle, these networks also are using some of these offspring outlets as a way to expand their portfolios of cross-platform assets for advertisers.

ABC Cable Networks Group executive vice president of worldwide brand strategy Eleo Hensleigh cited the importance of the networks as brands and — once they're established in distribution and viewership — the importance of "their programs as expressions of those brands."

Said Michaela English, president of Discovery Communications Inc.'s Discovery Consumer Products: "In the world of cable, people do develop loyalty to network brands, as well as individual shows."

Lifetime mag

At Lifetime Entertainment Services, Rick Haskins — recently promoted to executive vice president and general manager, while retaining branding oversight — is most enthused about the initial ad-sales and subscription success of Lifetime
magazine, launched this past April in partnership with Hearst Magazines.

Hearst Corp., with The Walt Disney Co., is part owner of Lifetime.

Extending the Lifetime brand is "really important in two ways — from a brand perspective, to touch consumers in different ways than the network does, and by providing another revenue source," said Haskins.

The magazine had been doing very well in newsstand sales and subscriptions, said Haskins. Its rate base has been at 500,000 subscribers, but will be boosted to 700,000 with January's issue.

In terms of ad sales the magazine "exceeded our goals," he said, though he did not supply specifics.

The second (July/August) issue, out since June 22, features Jada Pinkett Smith, a star of The Matrix Reloaded,
on the cover. Come September, Lifetime
magazine will publish monthly.

The network did not rush into publishing, said Haskins, who noted that the first issue didn't hit newsstands until the company had studied the prospects for some two years — and then only in association with an experienced partner, he said.

Those studies included extensive consumer research conducted to gauge interest and demand.

In association with Hyperion Books, Lifetime also has two books on retail shelves, The Wedding Planner
and Memories of a Lifetime. Two other books were published earlier, he said.

An added benefit from such spin-offs is that they can recycle content from the cable networks and the Web site, he noted.

Coming full circle, Lifetime executives said they may well adapt some sections from the magazine — pertaining to health, relationships and celebrity profiles, for instance — into possible cable-network series.

ESPN targets fans

ESPN Enterprises general manager Rick Alessandri said ESPN The Magazine
is among the programmer's most successful spin-off ventures, and "one of the most successful magazines" in general.

The publication has increased in frequency from a quarterly five years ago to every other week, a spokeswoman noted. ESPN's circulation now stands at 1.65 million, and ad pages have increased.

Since it lacked publishing expertise, ESPN sought out a magazine partner, he said. "We always try to find the best in class" when partnering.

"Our passionate fans embrace just about everything we put out there," he said, from the every-other-weekly magazine, the Web site and the ESPN Radio network to the ESPN Zone restaurants and scores of consumer products.

ESPN Zone eateries are now in eight markets — New York's is the largest — and other cities are being considered, he said.

As for merchandise on retail shelves, he cited XG skateboards and bikes (tied to its ESPN X Games franchise), video games via Sega Corp. and a music CD, ESPN Presents Stadium Anthems
CD (its first since Jock Rock
a few years ago).

Going beyond retail exposure, Alessandri noted that ESPN has recently branched out into other arenas like ESPN Golf Schools — a one-day golf clinic that began traveling to 30 cities late last year — and X Games Skateparks, now in four major markets (Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas and Denver) via mall developer Mills Corp.

Then there's ESPN Deportes Radio, distributed via ABC Radio Networks, as of mid-July.

"We haven't had many disappointments," he said, although he did recall some book titles that were either "off the mark or didn't get enough marketing support."

Looking ahead, Alessandri said, "we will be very aggressive over the next year" in seeking additional licensees. In particular, his unit will concentrate on the Bass Anglers Sportsmen's Society (B.A.S.S.) fishing operation and the Great Outdoor Games franchise, he said. It will also continue to emphasize the ESPN and X Games brands.

Cooking with books

Scripps Networks' Food Network has just licensed its first cookbook, said vice president of marketing Adam Rockmore — a series of books under the banner, "From the Food Network Kitchens."

The first (from Meredith Books) will hit shelves in September, the second in the spring, he said.

Previously, the channel's individual chefs, not Food, licensed all cookbooks in which they were involved, Rockmore said.

"That's only the beginning" of an aggressive new push from the programmer, said Rockmore. At June's Licensing International show in New York, Food used Scripps sibling United Media's booth to seek licensees in such diverse segments as housewares, calendars and stationery, Rockmore said.

Food, which has been selling its programs on home video through its Web site, will next year add a retail presence and Scripps' newly acquired Shop At Home as yet another outlet, he said.

"We're a destination network for viewers with loyalty to the category," he said. Thus, Food is looking for "ways to bring the brand uniquely to life" through appropriate products like tablecloths, napkins and aprons — as well as "taking that trust into other fields," such as towels, apparel and games.

The objective, he said, is to use such spin-offs to bolster channel viewership, as well as to "grow financial streams."

Since Meredith also publishes magazines like Better Homes & Gardens, might the idea of a Food-branded publication come up?

"That's an idea that's come up many times before, but not at this point [with Meredith]," Rockmore said.

A Scripps Networks spokeswoman said that Home & Garden Television and Fine Living have been testing newspaper supplements cobranded with the Scripps-owned newspaper in Ventura County, Calif. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal
and other Scripps dailies are also looking into that, she said.

Elsewhere in print, HGTV, like Food, has a Meredith Books deal, and is set to start with two books, she added.

And all of Scripps' networks provide in-flight programming to airlines Delta, United, US Airways and Continental, she said.

For its part, Do It Yourself Network now supplies localized versions of Ask DIY
to TV stations via syndication, using local on-air talent and packaged under customized titles (such as DIY Detroit
and DIY Cleveland).

Selling a 'Sci Fi' mag

"Brand extensions are driven by fragmentation, primarily," according to Universal Television Network Group senior vice president of cross-platform initiatives Kevin McAuliffe said.

To wit, Sci Fi
magazine serves an important function for Universal's Sci Fi Channel: to keep the consumer aware of what the network's doing.

"Sci Fi is probably the best example of extending into deeper points of contact," he said. He cited the magazine's coverage of such programs as Stargate SG-1, with online enhancements also available on the channel's Web site.

On the programming front, various series have also spawned home video and DVD releases, as well as licensed merchandise at retail, he added.

"Universal is huge in the licensing space," said McAuliffe.

Sci Fi
magazine has been in circulation since 1991.

"We believe it is the longest-running magazine created as a brand extension for a television network," said Sci Fi spokeswoman Kat Stein — and it also makes money.

"It's been profitable since day one," she said. Published every other month to a base of 100,000 subscribers, the magazine was recently given a redesign, in conjunction with the network's on-air revamp. A four-color ad page sells for $3,000.

As for Trio, that network still is in "the growing-the-awareness stage." McAuliffe said.

Discovery's toys

Discovery's English said her division adds value to its various networks by extending those brands beyond the small screen, into the retail, licensing and educational realms.

Discovery sells proprietary products in its own Discovery Channel Stores – such as Discovery Kids-branded science toys, preschool products bearing the "Ready, Set, Learn!" imprint (from TLC's morning block), plus the upcoming Tools for Life-branded women's tools, which she said are tied to do-it-yourself fare on TLC and Discovery Channel.

There are also strategic partnerships with Petco (to sell high-end Animal Planet products this fall), and Toys 'R' Us (for an Animal Planet merchandise section, just renewed for three more years), English said.

Newly licensed merchandise, she added, ranges from Discovery Kids items from Viewmaster and die-cast Monster Garage
toys, due this fall through spring 2004 from Funline Merchandise Co. to a Monster Garage
video game, due at yuletide from Activision. Others are planning apparel and auto accessories, she added.

Of all her division's spin-offs, the hottest property with the products likely to get the heftiest ad support this year, English said, is TLC's Trading Spaces. Earlier this year a DVD shipped 100,000 units, while a "Behind the Scenes" tome shipped 725,000 copies, becoming a best-seller for Meredith Books — which, she said, will release two more tie-in books later this year.

Still to come are a board game from Hasbro Inc., doll houses from B-Bel and various housewares and home décor items from companies like McCall Pattern Co., Fetco Home Décor and Springs Industries. There have also been published reports about a Trading Spaces
magazine being under consideration.

Her division has "talked about Discovery Kids and Animal Planet magazines, English said, since "a magazine is a logical extension from television brands."

She added, though: "We would work with an experienced publisher with the infrastructure, in a licensing arrangement" rather than tackle such a venture solo.

(Discovery Networks U.S. did publish its own Discovery Channel- and TLC-branded magazines in the past, but phased them out as the company's Internet presence became more important.)

Yet another cable-related magazine spin-off, IFC/Rant, was relaunched June 23 by publisher indieWIRE and IFC Cos., owner of IFC Television (formerly Independent Film Channel) and IFC Entertainment, which encompasses IFC Films.

Indie film ingenue Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry) is on the July/August cover, dubbed its "sexy summer issue."

IFC/Rant, with a per-copy circulation of 150,000, is sold at newsstands, independent bookstores and chains like Barnes & Noble and Virgin Megastore. Advertisers in the latest issue include Volkswagen and Sapporo Beer.

Of the networks under Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s umbrella, Turner Classic Movies and Cartoon Network are most actively seeking spin-offs.

Cartoon has published its own magazine in Brazil and Europe. A Cartoon Network Magazine
prototype was produced for the U.S. nearly two years ago, but that project was shelved with the onset of the advertising downturn, said senior vice president of trade creative services Gary Albright.

Amid the seemingly recovering ad economy, he said Cartoon will now re-examine its potential.

TCM senior vice president of enterprises and new media Katherine Evans said the channel's efforts at brand extension are "still at the beginning," dating from last fall.

"We're optimistic about the marketing potential" more so than the financial potential from such ventures, she said. Licensed product "moves into consumers' home and sits on the coffee table," where it will have more impact than, say, an ad in Entertainment Weekly, she felt.

An added plus for TCM, she said, is that "we own 80% of the [film] assets we show, and that gives us an edge on getting into various categories."

Pottery Barn fare

Most of TCM's emphasis so far has been on publishing and the gift and paper-products sectors.

The 250-store Pottery Barn, for instance, has done well with "The Hollywood Collection" of plates, coasters, napkins and the like, featuring vintage movie posters for Casablanca,
Evans said, adding that TCM is now talking with other retailers about the yuletide season and about entertaining/home-décor products.

Graphique de France has put out calendars and posters, while Chronicle Books this fall will market stationery products and "Gangster Speak" and "Pickup Lines" flashcards as well as "Picture Show," a book of classic posters.

Also in the works at Chronicle: "Behind the Scenes," featuring archival photos from movie sets.

TCM is now pitching food marketers about two food-line concepts, Evans said — TCM Movie Snacks and the Casablanca-inspired Rick's Café line. Product packaging would "include film trivia to set them apart and make them fun," she added.

Likewise, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc.'s AMC, the former American Movie Classics, introduced several line extensions last year and has others pending, according to network officials.

Several marketers are linking to AMC's Halloween stunt by licensing "AMC's MonsterFest Collection." Xplus, for instance, is preparing an action-figure line for retail, they said, while Monsters Direct will market model kits, Popcorn Movie Posters will release posters and Falcon Fox Group will proffer DVD titles.

University Games sold more than $2 million worth of AMC's "Reel Clues" board game at retail last year, a spokeswoman said — expressing glee that Discovery Channel Stores was on the list alongside Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Barnes & Noble. University and others are in discussions about additional games, including a video game, she added.

AMC movie tie-ins

"AMC's 'Movie People' repositioning has broadened its licensing appeal," said the spokeswoman.

"AMC's Movie Camp," a one-week film workshop held in association with the New York Film Academy in three markets, has expanded into nine cities, three abroad. About 650 people are expected to enroll, up from 400 last year, officials estimated.

The venture "plays off the sports fantasy camp idea," she noted. And the "AMC Film Academy," with lengthier workshops, is due later this year, the spokeswoman added.

Then there are "AMC's Movie Hunt" and "Movie-Inspired Meals." The former is tied to various film locations and conducted in association with Watson Adventures. It is slated to bow in New York Aug. 9 and then roll out later to Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and New Orleans.(A movie-themed travel service with also continues.)

Meals will be film-inspired cooking classes (e.g., Italian foods linked to mob movies or New Orleans Cajun cooking tied to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). Cooking schools in New York and three other cities will participate.

Sister network WE: Women's Entertainment has just licensed its series When I Was a Girl
to become a book via Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books, with producer Linda Ellerbee writing the foreword.

Due on bookshelves in September — when new episodes start appearing on WE — the book will feature looks at the early years of such stars as Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Sigourney Weaver and journalist Anna Quindlen.