When the marketing team at Showtime Networks Inc.
discovered their heavyweight match between Mike Tyson and Orlin Norris would bump up
against the first game of baseball's World Series, the first reaction was one of
Executives wondered if its Showtime premium channel would
lose 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 World
Series coverage for eyeballs, Showtime will urge sports fans to stay glued to their
televisions after the game and tune to Showtime for the fight.
The Tyson-Norris bout is set to begin at 11 p.m. Eastern
Standard Time, but would be delayed if the first game of the World Series goes into extra
innings or is held back due to a rain delay. Other fights on the boxing card will be shown
live or on tape, as needed, to fill time around the main event.
Because both sporting events are set to air on a Saturday
night when the primary viewing audience doesn't face work the next morning, Gibbons
said, Showtime has a good chance of getting tune-in after the baseball game.
"We started building our event on the mentality that
this 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 startling
picture should encourage people to look more closely at the ads, Gibbons believes.
In all its marketing messages, Showtime aims to treat Tyson
for his role in the ring, not for his personal celebrity -- or notoriety.
"We wanted to make sure the integrity of the Tyson
athletic image is maintained no matter where he's presented," senior marketing
consultant Suzan Couch said.
Showtime hopes the fight will attract both current
subscribers and new customers. It plans an aggressive promotional campaign, including
spots on ESPN and Fox Sports Net, a radio simulcast of the fight, ads in TV Guide
and ESPN the Magazine, billboards and a drawing for a free trip to the fight
through its Web site, www.sho.com.
"We're really gratified at the response
affiliates have given us for this event," vice president of field marketing Mike
Harrigan said. The message they're spreading, he said, is "get connected to
Showtime in time to see the fight."
Tactics that cable operators are using include sending
direct-mail pieces alerting subscribers about the fight, training customer service
representatives to mention the Tyson match, and leaving voice mail messages with customers
of previous pay-per-view boxing events.
EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network, for
example, plans to encourage former PPV buyers to sign up for Showtime in time for the
DirecTV Inc. will offer the fight as part of a 24-hour free
preview of Showtime in an attempt to drive sales of the premium channel.
Showtime did not have enough time to create a Tyson
point-of-purchase campaign for direct-broadcast satellite retailers, which typically
require marketing lead times of up to six months, Couch said.
Promotional timelines for cable operators looking to sign
up new Showtime customers vary, depending on whether current customers already have
addressable boxes, and on how long the backlog is for new customer installations.