Showtime Steps Up to Plate with Tyson Promos


When the marketing team at Showtime Networks Inc.discovered their heavyweight match between Mike Tyson and Orlin Norris would bump upagainst the first game of baseball's World Series, the first reaction was one ofdismay.

Executives wondered if its Showtime premium channel wouldlose boxing's primary audience to baseball that night.

"We decided to turn it into an advantage,"Showtime vice president of on-air creative Stephanie Gibbons said

Instead of trying to compete with NBC's Oct. 23 WorldSeries coverage for eyeballs, Showtime will urge sports fans to stay glued to theirtelevisions after the game and tune to Showtime for the fight.

The Tyson-Norris bout is set to begin at 11 p.m. EasternStandard Time, but would be delayed if the first game of the World Series goes into extrainnings or is held back due to a rain delay. Other fights on the boxing card will be shownlive or on tape, as needed, to fill time around the main event.

Because both sporting events are set to air on a Saturdaynight when the primary viewing audience doesn't face work the next morning, Gibbonssaid, Showtime has a good chance of getting tune-in after the baseball game.

"We started building our event on the mentality thatthis is the biggest day in sports," Gibbons said.

To drive home that point, Showtime has created print ads,posters and billboards in which Tyson is dressed in baseball gear. The somewhat startlingpicture should encourage people to look more closely at the ads, Gibbons believes.

In all its marketing messages, Showtime aims to treat Tysonfor his role in the ring, not for his personal celebrity -- or notoriety.

"We wanted to make sure the integrity of the Tysonathletic image is maintained no matter where he's presented," senior marketingconsultant Suzan Couch said.

Showtime hopes the fight will attract both currentsubscribers and new customers. It plans an aggressive promotional campaign, includingspots on ESPN and Fox Sports Net, a radio simulcast of the fight, ads in TV Guideand ESPN the Magazine, billboards and a drawing for a free trip to the fightthrough its Web site,

"We're really gratified at the responseaffiliates have given us for this event," vice president of field marketing MikeHarrigan said. The message they're spreading, he said, is "get connected toShowtime in time to see the fight."

Tactics that cable operators are using include sendingdirect-mail pieces alerting subscribers about the fight, training customer servicerepresentatives to mention the Tyson match, and leaving voice mail messages with customersof previous pay-per-view boxing events.

EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network, forexample, plans to encourage former PPV buyers to sign up for Showtime in time for thefight.

DirecTV Inc. will offer the fight as part of a 24-hour freepreview of Showtime in an attempt to drive sales of the premium channel.

Showtime did not have enough time to create a Tysonpoint-of-purchase campaign for direct-broadcast satellite retailers, which typicallyrequire marketing lead times of up to six months, Couch said.

Promotional timelines for cable operators looking to signup new Showtime customers vary, depending on whether current customers already haveaddressable boxes, and on how long the backlog is for new customer installations.