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Through the Wire

5/26/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

How ESPN Scored U2 for Cup Promos

U2 will be on stage with The Walt Disney Co. networks’ coverage of the world’s biggest sporting event. The Irish rockers are lending songs — and band members are supplying voiceovers — to five promo ads touting ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC’s coverage of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The quartet also will appear on shoulder programming for the month-long soccer tournament, which kicks off in Germany on June 9.

Tim Scanlan, senior coordinating producer for ESPN’s World Cup coverage, said it started when he envisioned U2 song “City of Blinding Lights” as the background for a tournament wrap-up piece.

“The song was written for New York, but I could see Berlin,” Scanlan told The Wire, referring to the site of the July 9 final. Contact was made with the group and ideas sprang for the event’s promotional campaign — executed by Weiden & Kennedy around the theme “One Game Changes Everything” — and ancillary programming.

“They’re the biggest band in the world and this is the biggest sporting event,” Scanlan explained after a press conference last Thursday in Manhattan discussing Disney’s World Cup broadcast plans. “They like how it fits with their image. They love the World Cup.”

U2’s “Beautiful Day,” it should be noted, became the theme song for NBC’s coverage of the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

High-definition footage of U2 concerts from New York, North Carolina, Chicago and Milan will be dropped into the studio show World Cup Live, which will air daily during the tournament.

Bono and company will advise on songs used to complement action during the tournament.

WE Chief Off on French Film Hunt

Local film buffs and international critics weren’t the only ones hunting for a hit at the Cannes Film Festival which ended May 28. WE: Women’s Entertainment executive vice president and general manager Kim Martin was there, too, looking for appropriate chick flicks for her largely female audience. It was her second foray to the international film marketplace.

Reached by phone last Thursday, Martin said she had seen three films a day in the previous two days, but she didn’t title drop. Alas, there was no fodder among them appropriate for her basic cable channel, she reported.

“Depressing but fabulous performances” was her minireview of the films she’d seen, many with war themes or other heavy topics. “Great acting though,” she concluded.

Ready, Steady, Stare! Verizon’s Viewing Binge

Verizon Communications Inc. came up with a unique promo for its FiOS video product, acted out in front of shoppers bent on a Memorial Day shopping binge. The company staged marathons — the watching, not running, kind — in two malls to bring attention to their product launch.

The telco picked six contestants to do the couch-potato thing in Columbia, Md., and Springfield, Va., malls. Each represented a local charity, with an opportunity to stare their way to a $100 donation per hour, up to $5,000, to chosen nonprofits. Runners-up qualified for a $1,000 donation.

As if watching people watch TV wasn’t riveting enough, shoppers could eyeball contestants on monitors competing in the other mall.

But the pageant wasn’t the thing keeping crowds, we bet. It’s all about the premiums. Programming partners MTV, ESPN, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, Starz, Sí TV and Fox Cable Networks provided goodies to be given away at each contest.

News-Crew Hurdle: Floods At Eleven

Heavy rains and flooding in Massachusetts and New Hampshire created a challenge for New England Cable News, because impassable roads made it impossible to get to some areas to cover the story. Fortunately, viewers equipped with digital camcorders and e-mail connections in areas like the Hull, Mass., peninsula near Boston Harbor helped out by sending in their homemade footage.

Steve Safran, director of digital media at the regional cable news channel, said last week the rising waters inspired locals to upload video files that numbered in the hundreds, with the highest volume coming in on May 14-15. He said NECN also made good use of homegrown footage when a blizzard struck the region last winter, “but this was the first time we’d seen, pardon the expression, a flood of videos.”

In addition to building viewer interest by encouraging people to watch the newscast and possibly see themselves, “the people who lived there helped us tell the story,” Safran said after a panel session at the Streaming Media East conference in New York on May 24.

No Musical Bond For Hasselhoff

Voom HD Networks is trundling out former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff to promote a month-long James Bond movie extravaganza on its FilmFest HD channel.

Though best-known as a faux lifeguard, he’s been known to sing (and record) such Sixties hits as Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head and These Boots are Made for Walking.

So it should be no surprise that Voom asked Hasselhoff to exercise his vocal cords on behalf of its “Ultimate Bond” series of uninterrupted movies, which will last from June 1 to June 30 on Film Fest.

The chosen song? Secret Agent Man.

Just don’t tell Voom (or Hasselhoff) this secret: That song is not connected to Bond movies. It was the theme song for a 1965 series on the CBS Network called Secret Agent, starring Patrick McGoohan.

Making the Most Of Pants Rants

It’s easy to understand the premise behind the Pants-Off Dance-Off on the Fuse music network

And why TV Guide named it the “dumbest show on television.” Or why New York magazine approves of it as “lowbrow brilliant.’’

Don’t worry. General manager Cat Mullen says Fuse will embrace the descriptions and quickly launch a marketing campaign to capitalize on them, within weeks.

You might say, the network won’t be caught with its pants down.

September