ReelzChannel: We’ll Help Operators Hype VOD

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ReelzChannel, the movie highlights services debuting in September, will aid local operators in pay-per-view and video-on-demand promotion by equipping the digital channel with software that will enable localization of the content.

Films receive their big advertising blitz before in concert with their theatrical release. Some big titles get another awareness bump with the DVD release, but by the time non-blockbuster films get to the PPV and VOD windows, 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 John DeGarmo, senior vice president, affiliate relations for ReelzChannel. “Localization reignites recall.”

Servers will be placed at affiliate head ends. This equipment will generate system-specific information overlays that can promote scheduled times and channels for the movies operators wish to promote.

“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 the subject, is available on a different channel, listing that channel number and time.

At 15 minute and 45 minutes past the hour, ReelzChannel will air interstitials, running 30 to 90 seconds, during which specific viewing recommendations for available PPV or VOD titles will be proffered. The topics could be 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 digital channel, part of Hubbard Broadcasting, is planned for launch Sept. 27 to an estimated 28 million cable and digital-satellite broadcast homes, including those served by DirecTV, EchoStar Communications, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Charter Communications, Insight Communications 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,” he said, noting that if the programming does its job properly, those viewers will come back.

ReelzChannel executives have some consumer promotions in mind for execution with partners, but DeGarmo didn’t want to detail specific plans until the channel is up and running.

Long-time industry veterans are given a sense of déjà vu when presented the concept of the channel, DeGarmo said. The channel is reminiscent of the original, trailer-heavy programming mix of E! Entertainment Television, back when it was known as Movietime.

“Maybe Movietime was ahead of its time,” he said, noting when that channel was launched in the 80s when the average system had 40 channels and, if one offered pay-per-view, it wasn’t more than two channels on a system. Channel navigation and product awareness weren’t key then, he noted.

“Now, with so many streams of release, this channel makes sense,” he said.

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