TV Guide Sweeps Up Affiliates

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TV Guide Network has won over major affiliates with a calendar of local promotional opportunities with long lead times that are flexible enough to match distributor's local initiatives.

Companies including Charter Communications, Verizon Communications and Time Warner Cable have used the local promotions as incentives for call-center workers or to draw attention to specific products, such as digital video recorders, with TV Guide's quarterly “Red Carpet” sweepstakes and promotions, for instance.

The channel's scheduling is a strong draw, said Verizon marketing executives. TV Guide's executives visit potential participants in late summer to see which products and services they may be promoting throughout the coming year, then present a schedule of possible events and tools to affiliates in October.

“That's very key for us,” said FiOS TV senior manager, marketing Cecelia Gordon. “We have very long planning periods.”

The channel schedule offers quarterly co-branded opportunities. Both Verizon and Time Warner Cable, for instance, last year participated in an Emmy Awards coverage-related sweepstakes to win a trip to Los Angeles to attend a pre-Emmy party and mingle with TV Guide talent Lisa Rinna and Joey Fatone.

A promotional spot featured Fatone touting TV Guide's Red Carpet coverage, while reminding viewers that they could record that and other Emmy coverage with a Time Warner DVR, in order to watch the programming over and over.

Another quarterly sweepstakes was linked to TV Guide's coverage of American Idol. Winners were treated to a dinner at an Los Angeles hot spot with past Idol contestants.

For system operators, these promotions offer access to talent that they might not have otherwise.

Such “experiential prizes” are more memorable and have a higher perceived value than items a subscriber could buy at a store, noted Verizon executives.

Time Warner Cable this quarter is using a TV Guide-provided trip as the prize in an incentive program designed to boost sales in all sales channels. The top seller will get a “Live Like a Star” weekend, including a trip to Los Angeles with limo service, spa treatment and other luxe experiences.

For public sweepstakes, TV Guide designs and executes the microsite that resides on the Web site of participating systems.

“We want to make it very easy for them to participate,” said Ryan O'Hara, president of TV Guide Network. He said the channel will add more local promotional opportunities in 2009 and open participation to more operators.

As for future participants, “We're sold on them,” said Ann Schick, director, FiOS TV content marketing. “I'm sure we'll be more than willing” to participate in future local promotions, she said.

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