Viacom Nets Stage AIDS Info Blitz


After much buildup in 2002, Viacom Inc.'s 2003-long corporate media campaign to raise public awareness of HIV and AIDS began last week, with major contributions from the company's assortment of cable services.

A first round of public-service messages, urging viewers to either wise up on HIV/AIDS information, get tested or show tolerance toward those affected with the conditions appeared on all Viacom cable networks, including Black Entertainment Television, MTV: Music Television, VH1, Showtime and TNN: The National Network.

Twenty-two different spots, including a number developed by MTV and BET, were presented throughout the week.

Beyond the spots, several networks premiered specials or series episodes that addressed HIV/AIDS in some manner, or replayed earlier original productions on the theme.

In Showtime's case, the effort incorporated nightly presentations of Queer As Folk
and the premiere of Behind The Red Door, an AIDS family drama starring Kiefer Sutherland, scheduled to run last night (Jan. 12).

BET's original contribution was Naked Truth II, a follow-up to a 2000 documentary highlighting people infected by HIV or AIDS — in this case, African-American women. Also last week, the channel reran another special, The Real AIDS in Africa, and a segment of its weekly Turnstile
series on pro basketball player Juan Dixon, whose parents died from AIDS during his childhood.

Under the campaign, Viacom's cable channels will be in lockstep in circulating PSAs throughout 2003, but left to their own druthers with respect to the timing of first-run programming premieres or outreach promotions.

The combined Noggin/The N service, for example, will wait until Dec. 1 — World AIDS Day — to run its original show contribution—an episode of its popular A Walk In Your Shoes
series where a pre-teen without HIV/AIDS spends time with a child or parent who does.

"The important thing is that the shows are spread throughout the year, so the entire campaign builds over time and has continuity," said Viacom vice president of corporate relations Carl Folta.

The PSAs, which will also run on CBS, UPN and the two broadcast networks' affiliates, invite viewers to get more information on HIV/AIDS through a toll-free number or Web site co-organized by Viacom and the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health information/research institution.

Viacom estimates the value of the PSA placements at above $120 million, but can't break down how much of that covers its cable services.