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Fox Revamps Promotions

11/25/2005 7:00 PM Eastern

Buoyed by its success with a number of affiliate-partnership programs, Fox Cable Networks Group is readying its schedule of network promotions for 2006.

In January, cable systems will be able to tie in to FX’s most-popular original series, while Speed Channel will gas up a second-quarter initiative aimed at benefiting both the network’s Web site and operators’ high-speed Internet business.

These and other programs have grown from Fox Cable’s philosophical shift away from an “us vs. them” mentality with respect to affiliate ad sales. Todd Schoen, senior vice president of affiliate marketing and ad sales, said the network group grew out of the regional sports business, where its Fox Sports Net outlets competed with their own cable-system affiliates for local spots.

But as those networks matured and started to capture national sponsors — and general-entertainment channels were added to the family — Fox Cable has made affiliate ad-sales partnerships more of a priority. It now has a dedicated three-member staff devoted to creating and executing affiliate-partnership opportunities.

For instance, early last year the network group partnered with Time Warner Media Services for an exclusive ad-sales promotion tied to National Geographic Channel, aimed at building overall channel awareness; increasing the number of systems in which the service could be inserted; and stoking overall ad revenue.

Thirty Time Warner markets participated. Each was able to give away an adventure vacation: a trip for two to Machu Picchu, the fortress city of the ancient Incas in Peru. Local management decided whether to give away the trip as a consumer prize or to give the trip to advertisers, Schoen said.

The net result for Nat Geo was a 1.3 million-sub increase in the number of homes in its advertising universe. Time Warner earned $1 million in revenue from the ad sales, according to Schoen, and the partners estimated the campaigned earned local press coverage worth an estimated $900,000.

Video is not the only product that Fox Cable has aggressively promoted. It recently developed a program with Cox Communications Inc., aiming to drive data customers while showcasing the high-speed product available on Speed Channel’s Web site.

The monthlong promotion was tied to the debut of two original series: Pinks and Texas Hardtails. Cox set an acquisition goal of 1,400 new high-speed data customers, but the campaign actually gained 1,694 new subscribers, according to Schoen.

Energized by these and other successes, the network group has set more campaigns for 2006. Penciled in for January is a campaign tied to FX’s most-popular originals, The Shield, Rescue Me and Nip/Tuck. Participating systems will be able to offer viewers a chance at a prize of a VIP trip to Hollywood, featuring a talent-hosted screening of FX programming on the studio lot.

A second-quarter promotion will center on Speed Channel. Its prize: a VIP suite, probably at the Daytona 500. Another Nat Geo co-promotion will offer an extreme-adventure prize in a trip to the Sea of Cortez, guided by a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence, Shoen said.

September