Starz to Spend $40M Backing Super Pak

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Starz Encore Group next Monday (March 12) plans to unleash a $40-million national branding campaign for its Starz Super Pak premium movie multiplex, with print, broadcast and outdoor ads touting its "number one in new hit movies" tag.

"Our position in the marketplace is, 'We're hit movies,' "Mike Hale, senior vice president of marketing and business development, said. "We leave the originals and the naughty stuff to [Home Box Office]."

Hale is especially proud of a large billboard on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard featuring ErinBrockovich
star and Academy-Award-nominated actress Julia Roberts.

"We've finally got a billboard on Sunset," Hale said. "It took us years to get this. We've arrived."

Other outdoor ads include bus shelter signs in midtown Manhattan, strategically situated near rival HBO's headquarters, as well as those of HBO parent AOL Time Warner.

Hale downplayed the fact that the Starz Super Pak campaign comes on the heels of the third season opener of the HBO hit The Sopranos. Instead, he said that Starz timed the launch of its new branding campaign to take advantage of the attention that the Super Pak is expected to gain from a Starz! free preview weekend set for this weekend (March 9-11).

Participating cable and direct-broadcast satellite operators plan to make the free preview available to 40 million homes, Hale said.

Since Starz launched its Super Pak thematic service last February backed by $30 million in branding, the company said it has grown its "subscription units" by 51 percent, from 58 million to 88 million units-or combined thematic channels-at the end of 2000.

Hale said that eight of the 12 channels in the Super Pak are counted as separate subscription units. The 12-pack includes Starz!, Encore, Action, Mystery, Black Starz! (formerly BET Movies), Westerns, Starz! Family, Love Stories, True Stories, Starz! Theater, WAM! and Starz! Cinema.

The company has about 16 million Encore subscribers and 12 million Starz! subscribers, Hale noted.

Among the hit movies highlighted in the Starz! consumer ads are Erin Brockovich, The Sixth Sense, Mission to Mars, The Cider House Rules, The Hurricane
and End of Days.

At the system level, some of the premium network's cable affiliates are using the Starz Super Pak as the centerpiece of their digital acquisition and upgrade campaigns this month. According to Hale, Time Warner Cable of New York City and Adelphia Communications' Los Angeles system are each promoting the service with broadcast and print ads.

As part of its affiliate marketing support, Starz Encore is running a multimillion-dollar customer-service representative incentive campaign to encourage CSRs to "say Starz first" when selling premium and digital services. CSRs that actively promote the Super Pak are eligible for instant-win scratch cards, as well as the chance to win prizes in a weekly drawing. Among the prizes are Erin Brockovich
-related items, such as the Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by a supporting actor in the film and videocassettes of the movie.

The new national print ads unveil the new Black Starz! logo. Hale said that the company had tested the word onyx "and other politically correct names" with African-American viewers when it came time to rebrand BET Movies, but found that "black is a word of power and pride."

Hale said the company is training CSRs now on the new Black Starz! brand.

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