Viacom: It's War vs. HIV, Fought With PSA Images

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Viacom Inc. last Wednesday announced a multifaceted, multiyear campaign to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS.

The effort, comprising public-service announcements and primetime programming, starts Jan. 6. The international phase of the push is expected to start during the second quarter of 2003, the company indicated.

That announcement came barely a week after Viacom's MTV: Music Television announced its own annual global salvo, tied to World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

Viacom and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimated the value of the overall HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention media campaign at $120 million.

Funding for the PSA campaign's development — which reportedly will cost some $3 million — is coming from Viacom, Kaiser, the Mel Karmazin Foundation and Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.

Across platforms

Viacom's various media assets — in television, cable, radio, outdoor and online — will participate, as well as entities that aren't ad-supported, like film studio Paramount Pictures Corp. and movie-rental giant Blockbuster.

In addition, such program producers as Paramount Television and CBS Productions will get involved by incorporating HIV/AIDS storylines into numerous primetime series.

Aside from Showtime's Queer As Folk, Viacom said that it already has commitments for such stories to be woven into NBC's Frasier
(produced by Paramount), CBS's The District, The Agency
and Becker
and UPN's Girlfriends
and even UPN's Star Trek
spinoff, Enterprise.
The Kaiser foundation already has been holding briefings on HIV/AIDS for the creators of primetime series, Viacom said.

"As the largest collection of ad platforms in the industry, and a leading creator of entertainment and information, Viacom is uniquely suited to get the word out" to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS, Viacom president Mel Karmazin said in a prepared statement.

"A branded campaign" is in development, Karmazin said.

Every Viacom division will be involved, according to the announcement — from the CBS and UPN broadcast networks to such cable services as CMT: Country Music Television, VH1 and TNN: The National Network. MTV and Black Entertainment Television also will contribute material previously prepared for their own ongoing HIV/AIDS efforts.

Free PSAs

Viacom's PSAs, which will direct viewers to "a comprehensive Web site," will be offered rights-free to other media outlets.

On the programming side, syndicator King World and Viacom Productions will join Paramount Television and CBS Productions in participating.

"HIV/AIDS themes will also be explored on syndicated talk shows and game shows," although it did not explain how that would be done with the latter genre, Viacom's announcement said.

There also will be "age-appropriate information" presented to Nickelodeon and Noggin viewers via special programming, PSAs and parent resources, Viacom added.

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