USA Sets Big '03 Yahoo! Program Push

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In what Yahoo! Inc. bills as the largest dollar commitment USA Network has made to any Internet company, the general-entertainment service will promote more than a half-dozen primetime shows across the Web portal's various entertainment pages.

The campaign begins this week, with an effort backing Nashville Star, a USA reality entry that bows March 8. The series gives a country-music twist to the American Idol
formula.

USA has bought space across Yahoo!'s network of Web sites and online services, including the home page (www.yahoo.com); Yahoo! Messenger; its TV, entertainment and other sites; Yahoo! Chat; and the Yahoo! search engine.

"It is a seven-figure budget," said USA Network senior vice president of marketing Sarah Beatty. The idea is to "keep the [ratings] momentum going for our original product," which began last summer with the series debuts of Monk
and The Dead Zone, she said.

The Yahoo! buys extend into September.

Other programs to be heralded on Yahoo! include the original movie Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story
(due March 30); the four-hour miniseries Helen of Troy
(April 20 through 21); the American Film Institute's AFI Lifetime Achievement Award
special, honoring Robert De Niro (June 24); Monk's second season, slated to premiere in late June; and the September bow of the six-hour miniseries Traffic.

According to Beatty and Yahoo! TV senior director Doug Hirsch, USA has bought a variety of high-impact Yahoo! ad formats, including banners, buttons and so-called "modules" and "mantles," or rectangular ad frames. The programmer will also sponsor interactive polls and employ a range of techniques "from pinpoint to blast marketing," as well as rich media and video clips from upcoming shows.

USA will target its messages to users of specific Yahoo! users. Strategies will home in on the New York DMA and on Yahoo's government and politics groups for Rudy; country-music chat rooms and groups for Nashville Star;
mystery aficionados for Monk; and fans of action/adventure, drama and romance, as well as entertainment group members, for Helen of Troy.

Online roadblocks

"With our Yahoo! campaigns, we hope to drive tune-in to our [shows] by targeting viewers through their specific online promotions," said Beatty, who described Yahoo! as "one vehicle where you can really target the message to different audiences and reach targeted demographics."

Like a movie studio touting a major release, USA will buy two weeks of awareness for its various shows and "roadblocks" lasting one to three days, plus rich-media advertising to tout Traffic
and its original series.

Mantles on the Yahoo! home page, with links to the Yahoo! TV page, will tout both Rudy
and Helen.
The dot-com's ad rates reportedly range from $150,000 to more than $600,000 per day; the higher rate is for rich-media ads.

Because it made its buys well in advance, USA said it has secured prime positions at lower rates, following a rationale the programmer lays out for its advertisers during upfront negotiations.

"Owning our home page for five days is a major spend," Hirsch said.

Yahoo.com alone is used by "tens of millions of people daily," noted Hirsch, who added that 70 million of the company's pages are viewed each day. Ten million of those viewers are unique daily visitors, he added.

In addition to the Web effort, Rudy
and Helen
will receive cable-affiliate and cinema-advertising support from USA. The Giuliani biopic will also be promoted on billboards in the New York City subway system, Beatty said.

Star
will also be promoted via Infinity Broadcasting Corp. radio stations, while AFI's salute may be featured in a Sachs Fifth Avenue window display.

Web sites are playing a greater role in promoting TV fare as "more consumers rely on the Internet to help them make their TV viewing choices," said Yahoo! senior vice president of media, entertainment, information and finance Jim Moloshok.

USA will place its ads on Yahoo! both during the day, to hit the millions of consumers who access its pages while at work, and in the evening when those users are at home, said Hirsch. Research indicates that many viewers check their nightly TV-programming choices on PCs located in the same room as the set, he said.

According to a 2002 ComScore Media Matrix Study, 48 percent of adults with online capabilities put their PC and TV in the same room, Yahoo! executives said. That study also indicated that 76 percent use the computer and set at the same time, and 47 percent do so frequently.

Yahoo!'s Hirsch, who variably described USA's buy as "a very significant commitment" and "definitely our biggest deal yet with a cable company," said the initial discussions that led to the deal began last year.

Web has worked

USA already knew that Web destinations bolstered tune-in audience ratings for the original-series premieres of Monk and Zone last season, as well as for sister network Sci Fi Channel's Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries Taken
in December.

As for what's next at Yahoo!, Hirsch said megamedia companies are now looking into buying promotion time for the multiple networks under their corporate umbrellas. Yahoo is "close to a deal" on one such multi-network deal, he indicated.

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