Sci Fi Series 'Taken' for a Marketing Ride


Sci Fi Channel's new alien saga is spawning promotional efforts that are out of this world.

Touting individual television programs on a grand scale has been alien to Time Warner Cable's New York City system. "Except maybe for The Sopranos," said Holly Winnick, market strategy and planning vice president for the cable industry's largest individual system.

If it takes an epic about aliens and humans intermingling on Earth to be another exception, so be it. In the case of Winnick's system and others nationwide, that's been the case with their promotions of Taken, the Steven Spielberg maxiseries launching tonight on Sci Fi.

For the program, divided into 10 two-hour segments, Time Warner and other cable operators have enlarged their promotional universe, with help from several Sci Fi affiliate programs.

In Time Warner New York's case, Winnick said the effort has taken shape over the past two months and stretched well beyond cross-channel spots. Direct-mail pieces and program guide ads were produced for delivery in October and November, and specific tune-in mailings were sent out to non-subscribers.

Along with that, Time Warner participated last month in two special Sci Fi events: "The Taken
Experience," a traveling exhibit on unidentified flying objects and extraterrestrial life playing at Manhattan's South Street Seaport; and a virtual field trip for students nationwide at the Museum of Television and Radio, arranged through Cable in the Classroom.

Time Warner Cable did not disclose its budget on the Taken

Comcast Corp. systems in Philadelphia, Detroit and recently acquired AT&T Broadband systems, as well as Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Los Angeles-area franchise joined Time Warner in holding Taken
Experience events, complete with signage and co-branded collateral sponsorship opportunities. Most also carried the CIC field trip from New York Nov. 25, where a panel of experts discussed topics raised by the show.

Those MSOs, plus Charter Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co., are also running an "instant win" sweepstakes.

Systems representing over 60 million households — about 75 percent of Sci Fi's circulation — deployed various marketing tactics against Taken, including cross-channel avail space worth about $7 million, according to senior vice president of marketing and creative services Dave Howe.

For its part, Sci Fi's push behind Taken
is the biggest in the network's history. The multimillion media schedule encompasses outdoor ads; theatrical trailers; a four-day buy on Yahoo!; print ads in USA Today, The New York Times, TV Guide
and other titles; tune-in radio spots; Sunday morning newspaper bags; spot TV buys in the top 10 markets; and local cable buys in the top 20 DMAs.