Time Warner Spots Up With FX NASCAR Promo

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Time Warner Cable Direct and FX recently steered down some new roads on course to a successful affiliate promotion.

FX supported its "Winston Weekend Sweepstakes" promo with an unusual cash buy that covered 40 spot-cable markets — a first for the network. And Time Warner Cable's spot-sales operation is now aiming to develop several similar efforts each year.

Time Warner Cable Direct convinced FX to buy the spot schedule to promote its contest in 16 Time Warner DMAs, and to boost consumer awareness of its NASCAR coverage in 24 additional markets.

The $2 million cash buy was "a new way of looking at partnering with the MSOs and also helping them build their business," said Jola Harris vice president of affiliate marketing and entertainment at Fox Cable Networks Group.

TWCD is a one-stop-shopping ad-sales firm that works directly on national spot-cable buys in more than just those systems and interconnects owned by Time Warner Cable. It secured the FX order by guaranteeing the MSO's participation in 16 markets and then expanding its reach, according to general manager John Collins and promotions director Joanne Eckert.

FX's paid schedule reached 30 million homes across 40 markets — or 50 percent of the network's universe. The promotion alone hit 6 million homes, or 10 percent of the channel's subscriber base, according to Harris and Collins.

Collins has recently worked on spot buys for such channels as A&E Network, Court TV, Lifetime Television and TNN, sometimes "going as deep as 80 markets," he noted.

The TWCD unit boosted its volume to $60 million last year from $12 million five years ago, Collins disclosed.

FX began discussing the sweepstakes with Collins at last year's Western Show, when the network planned to offer one national grand prize and a local prize tier. FX and Time Warner later expanded the program to 16 local grand prizes — trips for two to the speedway in Charlotte, N.C., for a Winston Cup auto race May 19 to May 20 — after the MSO guaranteed participation from 16 of its markets.

That participation also included a commitment to run a minimum of 200 spots supporting the promotion over a three-week span. Some systems went well above and beyond that, airing as many as 1,000 spots tagged with local sponsors, Eckert noted.

The value of the affiliates' cross-channel support was just over $2 million, Collins estimated.

The promotion itself ran from late February through late March in such Time Warner markets as Orlando and Tampa in Florida, Charlotte, Houston, San Antonio, Kansas City, Memphis, Tenn., Indianapolis and Milwaukee, they said.

The promotion, which offered affiliates local marketing and ad-sales components, generated more than $200,000 in new advertising business for the systems, Collins estimated. Unsurprisingly, car dealers and the automotive after market were the strongest categories, Eckert added.

TWCD's aggressive goal now is to develop "four to six of these each year," Collins said, conceding that seems unlikely this year, given the ad-sales downturn.

"We're hoping to work with Time Warner again next year, on NASCAR and other programming initiatives," Fox's Harris said.

Now that Turner Network Television is carrying NASCAR, Collins said he also hopes to work with that sister company on a similar racing promotion in the future.

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