TVG's Local Promos Off to Races

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After years of operating its horseracing channel with little distribution, Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. is putting some marketing muscle behind local promotions for TVG Network as it gains wider carriage on cable systems.

In 2001, TVG was carried only by a couple of Insight Communications Co. systems and EchoStar Communications Corp., so there were few opportunities to tout the channel to subscribers, said Amy Bates, senior vice president of TV Guide affiliate marketing.

Now that TVG is available in 12 million homes — after picking up nearly 4 million subscribers in 2003 — the network is looking to drive local awareness of the channel.

TVG, which allows subscribers to place bets on the races it televises through its Web site and the telephone, is launching a sweepstakes promotion tied to the Kentucky Derby. DirecTV Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp. are participating in the promotion, which runs throughout March.

"With that kind of [distribution] upsurge, we needed to help our affiliates market the service," Bates said. "We're coming in with turnkey attractive promotions focused on the highest profile events in racing."

With the Kentucky Derby promotion, TVG will award one cable subscriber and one satellite subscriber a 53-inch HDTV, a catered Kentucky Derby party for 20 people, $200 in "Derby Dollars" that can be used to place bets on the race through a TVG account and other prizes.

TVG also plans to send systems Kentucky Derby apparel for CSRs; it will also award one system with a pre-Kentucky Derby party.

While many cable networks run several promotions throughout the year, the Kentucky Derby promotion is only TVG's second affiliate promotion ever. Its first was a sweepstakes tied to last year's Breeders Cup.

Look for TVG to market new wagering technology later this year. Bates said the network is developing an interactive application that will allow subscribers to place bets with the click of a remote.

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