ReelzChannel, the movie-highlights service debuting in September, will help its affiliates promote pay-per-view and video-on-demand titles by equipping the digital channel with software that will enable operators to localize content.
Films receive their big advertising blitz long before the on-demand window, in concert with their theatrical release. Some big titles get another awareness bump with the DVD release, but by the time non-blockbusters get to the PPV and VOD stage, consumers may not remember the title.
“Six to 12 months out, [subscribers] see a name on the interactive program guide, but there’s no recall there,” said ReelzChannel senior vice president of affiliate relations John DeGarmo. “Localization reignites recall.”
OVERLAYS AND POP-UPS
ReelzChannel will place servers in its affiliates’ headends that will generate system-specific information overlays, promoting the scheduled times and channels for the movies operators wish to highlight.
“It’s like what The Weather Channel does, but in an elegant, cool way,” he added.
For instance, if the channel is running a feature on a prominent star or director, a pop-up will materialize that will inform the viewer that a film featuring that subject is available elsewhere, listing the channel number and time.
At 15 minutes and 45 minutes past the hour, ReelzChannel will air 30- to 90-second interstitials, proffering specific viewing recommendations for available PPV or VOD titles. The topics could range from the key VOD title for the week to a “hidden gem,” scheduled on a premium channel, that’s relatively unknown but worth seeing, he said.
The Hubbard Broadcasting Inc.-owned digital channel is set to launch Sept. 27 to an estimated 28 million cable and digital-satellite broadcast homes, including those served by DirecTV Inc., EchoStar Communications Corp., Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Insight Communications Co. and members of the National Cable Television Cooperative. Hubbard plans to support the service with national advertising.
If successful, though, the localization initiatives will get viewers to tune away from ReelzChannels, a strategy that’s alarming to potential national advertisers, DeGarmo acknowledged. The “tune-away” strategy “is a risk on our part. It sends viewers away, but it’s a risk worth taking.”
If the programming does its job properly, he added, those viewers will come back.
ReelzChannel executives have some consumer promotions in mind for execution with partners, but DeGarmo didn’t want to offer specifics until the channel is up and running.
When presented with the ReelzChannel concept, longtime industry veterans felt some deja vu, DeGarmo said. Its programming mix is reminiscent of the original, trailer-heavy lineup of E! Entertainment Television, back when it was known as Movietime.
“Maybe Movietime was ahead of its time,” he said, noting that channel was launched in the 1980s — when the average system had 40 channels, and those that offered pay per view typically did so on just two channels.
Channel navigation and product awareness weren’t key then, he noted.
“Now, with so many streams of release, this channel makes sense,” he said.