Old 'Trek,’ New Trick


When Neal Tiles came aboard as G4 TV president in September 2005, one of his first tasks was marketing a 40-year-old television show, Star Trek, to the network’s target audience of men 18-34.

“We did a rather unique take on the classic Star Trek and created this interactive overlay to it,” Tiles says.

That “unique take” was an interactive Website promotion with such features as Trek Stats (for example, how many times Trek’s Captain Kirk flirted with an alien) and the real-time Spock Market, where viewers can buy and sell stock in the series’ characters. The network also offers live onscreen commentary from viewers during airings of the vintage sci-fi show. The tagline for the series’ launch campaign: “Star Trek 2.0: Tune in and Prosper.”

G4 TV looks brand new under Brand Builder winner Tiles, who has led a number of efforts to broaden the network’s appeal beyond videogames.

“The problem with G4 was that it was a very limited-appeal channel with no ratings,” says Jeff Shell, president of Comcast Content. (Comcast has a majority stake in G4 TV.) “Obviously, there is still a long way to go, but we’ve had very strong success in kick-starting the ratings [and] getting people to watch the channel.”

Tiles joined G4 from DirecTV, where, as executive VP of marketing, he oversaw the successful integration of all of the satellite operator’s marketing initiatives under a single brand umbrella: “Rethink TV.” Tiles and his team also collected 39 Promax/BDA awards last year.

Star Trek is the highest-rated program for the network, which has more than 55 million subscribers. And G4 TV has seen nearly a year of steady gains in its number of viewers. Tiles has also moved the network brand in a multiplatform direction, including podcasts and video-on-demand (VOD), with winning results. In May, G4 TV reportedly had 2 million on-demand views across Comcast VOD systems.

“They’ve really made G4 a cross-platform kind of brand,” says Shell. “It is hard for a channel with limited ratings to break out on the multiplatform space.”

The network marketed the launch of the Star Trek 2.0 campaign by releasing promotional spots on the popular video-sharing site YouTube in April. The commercials featured Star Trek figures in unlikely settings, such as a coffee shop, poolside and even a karaoke bar, where Spock is shown singing Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” Since the first innovative spot went up, total views have hit 1.3 million.

Tiles fosters creativity among his staff and doesn’t underestimate the value of cheerleading: “I think it shows people that their ideas are going to be valued and motivates [staffers] to create something new and different.”