Starz Entertainment Mounts Massive Sampling Effort behind 'Magic City'

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Starz Entertainment, through a multiplatform sampling initiative and linear preview, is looking to conjure significant viewing for its upcoming drama Magic City and bolster subscription sales.

The first sneak peek at Magic City, which centers around Miami's Miramar Playa Hotel circa 1960 and the high-rollers and not-so-reputable types who frolic and do business there, will follow the season finale of gladiator series Spartacus: Vengeance on March 30. The premium programmer's audience base will expand by a spring preview event covering Starz and Encore channels and on-demand platforms.

Magic City

From there, a number of multichannel video affiliates will offer additional linear, on-demand and/or online sampling opportunities of the first three episodes of Magic City, beginning March 31, one week in advance of Starz's linear series premiere on April 6 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT).

All told, the programmer says more than 76 million U.S. households will have access to the sampling opportunities through select cable, satellite, and telco affiliates. That represents the most accessible homes for a Starz sampling initiative, equaling the number behind Kelsey Grammer political series, Boss, last October.
"We are pleased that so many of our affiliates have chosen to participate in the Magic City sampling initiative and concurrent spring free preview," said Ed Huguez, president of affiliate distribution for Starz Entertainment. "Working with our distribution partners to sample Starz original series and preview our unmatched collection of premium channels and services is a large part of the promotional efforts for new Starz content. They are also a great way to introduce our exciting, compelling content to new audiences."

The three-installment initiative represents Starz's widest gambit to date, and comes on the sandals of the on-demand and online sampling effort behind Spartacus: Vengeance in January, which yielded a franchise record 8 million total views across sampling and Starz platforms.

Starz's Nancy McGee

The premium programmer is also driving a sweepstakes effort highlighted by a restored 1958 Cadillac, reminiscent of the vehicles seen in the series.
"Starz has been successful with sampling efforts behind original series like Boss and Spartacus: Vengeance. Magic City is unlike anything else on television with a gorgeous cast and a cinematic feel," said Nancy McGee, executive vice president, marketing for Starz Entertainment. "It's another tentpole series for Starz and we didn't want people to just get a taste. Instead, we want them to be able to luxuriate in those glamorous times over the three episodes."
McGee said the multi-pronged push will not only build viewership for the series, but help our "affiliate partners showcase the value of their various platforms and attract new subscribers or get existing customers to add Starz."
Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, AT&T U-verse TV, Suddenlink Communications , Mediacom Communications Corporation, Armstrong, DirecTV Puerto Rico, Buckeye CableSystem, GCI, Massillon Cable TV/Clear Picture Inc., Antietam Cable Television, Inc., GVTC, BVU, and Frankfort Plant Board are among the affiliates that will make the three Magic City episodes available via their free on-demand platforms.
The Magic City trio can also be screened online via starz.com/magiccity,Verizon.com/fios, charter.net, mediacomtoday.com and suddenlink2go.com, plus facebook.com/magiccity.starz and Verizon FiOS and Grande Communications Facebook pages.
On the DBS side of the promotional ledger, Dish will offer the three installments free on demand and its new Blockbuster Studio channel. The provider will also show the episodes on DishOnline.com and via its Facebook page.
Similarly, DirecTV will present the episodes on demand and via its Audience Network, as well as directv.com and its Facebook page.
For its part, the nation's top distributor Comcast will show them on-demand through Xfinity TV, xfinitytv.com and the Xfinity TV app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
"You definitely see a subscription uptick with these kinds of promotion," said Maggie Suniewick, vice president, video services at Comcast, adding that cross-platform tools have facilitated the sign-up and/or the upgrade process for subscribers.
Suniewick said that Comcast works continually with Starz on myriad promotions and together the partners opened up the Magic City initiative to the different vehicles.

Starz's Amy Bell

"This is Starz's first time with three episodes and all the platforms in advance of the linear airing," she noted. "It's important to have consistency and not have to tell customers why an asset is available on-demand, but not online, or vice versa. We want to make the programming accessible to everyone, everywhere."

She also believes that with the way the series sets up, the multiple installments will prove compelling and insigtful for  viewers. "Magic City is a complex show with lots of characters, so the three episodes will serve to fully introduce the series," she said.

Amy Bell, vice president marketing communications and brand strategy at Starz Entertainment, said the programmer wanted to be as versatile as possible with this initiative, offering TV-MA and TV-14 versions of the episodes to affiliates, while providing consumers with the flexibility to "watch either free on demand or online." To that end, Starz officials believe that when people watch the pilot, many will wind up screening all three episodes in one session.

Comcast is also boosting Magic City through the social media network, where facebook.com/xfinity has 1.285 million likes and counting. There, Starz has constructed a custom tab that opens to reveal additional content about Magic City and where users will be able to watch the three episodes. "It's a great, very entertainment-focused group. Facebook is a great outlet to drive awareness and viewing," said Suniewick
As to Starz and Encore's spring free preview, telcos FiOS and U-verse are on board, as are Dish Network, DirecTV and DirecTV Puerto Rico. On the cable count, the premium programmer will widen its programming berth with Liberty Cable Puerto Rico, HTC , Antietam Cable Television, Advanced Cable Communications, BVU, Inter Mountain Cable, Mid-Hudson Cablevision, BLTV (Ben Lomand Connect), WK&T Telecommunications, MH Telecom, and Hawaiian Telcom. The freeview runs from March 29 through April 2, with the distributors participating to various degrees.

Magic City
 sweepstakes

The "Magic City Classic Cadillac Sweepstakes" -- registration available at http://magiccitysweeps.starz.com/  through the first-season's concluding episode on June 4 -- is awarding weekly prizes, culminating with the refurbished 1958 Cadillac Sedan DeVille.

"It's an iconic, fun prize and another reason for fans to explore the Magic City microsite," said Bell, noting that registrants can gain more points by sending "postcards" to their friends. She added that the awareness for the sweepstakes is benefiting from sampling and tune-in messaging, as well as through affiliates' websites.

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