Universal Blends VOD Marketing Across Genres

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Comcast Corp. and Universal Television Distribution used a free video-on-demand offering to boost interest in the May 2 VOD premiere of Eminem's 8 Mile.

The 8 Mile Shady Showcase, in turn, helped boost buy-rates for the film.

The gambit marked one of the first combinations tying free on-demand content with a hit VOD movie, and had the added benefit of helping Universal push CD sales for its sister record division.

"A substantial percentage of people who ordered the free music video also purchased the 8 Mile
movie for $3.95," said Comcast vice president of marketing for new products Page Thomson.

Though it wouldn't divulge specific numbers, Comcast reported that the 40-minute 8 Mile Shady Showcase
was accessed 65,000 times during the first three weeks of its availability, making it far and away the most popular FOD title during that timespan.

Other operators — including both Time Warner Cable and RCN in New York City — ran the same feature with 8 Mile
music videos for free on VOD.

8 Mile
represented a unique marketing opportunity for both sides. Music videos are a core part of Comcast's FOD platform, and there was a natural tie-in between Eminem's music videos and the film, which grossed $116 million at the box office last year.

UMG provided a 40-minute music video segment, featuring Eminem, 50 Cent, D12 and Obie Trice. It premiered on the system May 2, the same day as the film.

Universal placed three promotion spots for 8 Mile
on VOD within the program, which helped sell the movie.

"When we started working on the VOD campaign for 8 Mile, we knew we wanted to do something special," said Universal Studios senior vice president of worldwide VOD and pay-per-view Holly Leff-Pressman.

Promotional efforts behind the movie included a sweepstakes, DVDs and concert ticket giveaways.

In the course of meeting with Comcast, the idea of adding the music-video element arose, Leff-Pressman said. Music videos are a popular part of Comcast's FOD lineup in Philadelphia.

"This was a win-win-win," Leff-Pressman said of how the promotion helped Comcast, Universal Television and Universal Music.

The studio was so pleased with the deal that it added Shady Showcase 2, which features new content from 50 Cent and Eminem, to its FOD lineup on July 1.

"We will continue to explore music showcases when it makes sense," said Stacy Melle, director of worldwide PPV marketing, Universal Studios.

Another obvious title: 2 Fast and 2 Furious. "We look forward to working with them on other innovative efforts that use free content to promote on-demand movie buys," Leff-Pressman added.

Universal also is looking ahead to year's end, when it will promote the Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty, executives said.

The studio also is getting active in promoting library titles available on VOD, through a new double-feature promotion that begins this summer.

Last year, Universal paired a new title with a related library title on PPV, creating summer drive-in-type double features.

"We feel we were very successful with that," Leff-Pressman said. Viewers could see the original American Pie
at the same time that American Pie 2
premiered, for instance.

"It gives the customer real value," Leff-Pressman said.

This year, Universal is putting two library titles together in a "Star-Studded Summer Double Features" promotion that will follow the calendar year. Two new films will premiere each week, beginning Aug. 1. For instance, one August week will have the Adam Sandler vehicles Billy Madison
and Happy Gilmore.

Universal will pair The Breakfast Club
and Dazed and Confused
in September, to coincide with back-to-school time. Dracula-Frankenstein
and The Birds-Psycho
pairings are slated for October.

"We're being responsive to customer concerns," said Leff-Pressman, noting that many MSOs have found it difficult to promote VOD library titles to customers. "We'll put marketing behind it to see if we can boost library titles."

Operators will decide on pricing. Universal will give consumers 48 hours to watch both films after they are ordered.

The studio has signed a deal with In Demand for the double features and is talking to TVN Entertainment Corp about the offerings. Insight Communications Co. and Charter Communications Inc. use TVN for delivery of VOD movies.

"Charter is very interested," Melle said.

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