UPN: United Promo Net
Viacom draws on its vast resources to tout fall season
By Joe Schlosser -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/12/2001 8:00:00 PM
Two years ago, few thought UPN would even survive. Now parent Viacom is pulling out all the stops, and putting up the bucks, to trumpet its fall season. That effort includes putting UPN's brand on two shows from archrival WB—Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Roswell—and introducing the next installment in the Star Trek franchise.
"This will be the largest and deepest marketing launch we have ever had," says UPN COO Adam Ware. Sources put UPN's fall marketing costs at more than $15 million, including financial support from co-owned Paramount TV for the launch of Enterprise, the Star Trek prequel.
The campaign will be a synergy demonstration, using Viacom's wide array of assets. Now that Viacom owns 100% of UPN (it bought out partner Chris-Craft), says Ware, "we have a greater ability to get a message out than we ever have."
The bulk of that Viacom synergy comes in the form of "you scratch my back" ad swaps with MTV, VH-1, BET and TNN. Buffy and Enterprise will get the biggest chunk of that time.
UPN, which promoted MTV's 20th anniversary special earlier this month, will get spots on the cable channel for Enterprise, Buffy and others; BET time will be used to promote UPN's African-American–targeted Monday comedies; TNN, which is launching Star Trek: Next Generation in syndication, will help promote Enterprise.
But not all the ad swapping is in-house. News Corp.-owned FX, which is launching Buffy in syndication, will promote UPN's first-runs of the series; and USA's Sci-Fi Channel, whose Quantum Leap stars Enterprise captain Scott Bakula, will tout the sci-fi series.
UPN also has a deal with co-owned Blockbuster to run promotions on in-store monitors and will enlist co-owned Infinity for extensive radio and outdoor campaigns.
And, for the first time, the network is counting on its own programming as promotional platforms for new series.
UPN is looking to use The Source Hip-Hop Music Awards (Aug. 28), a two-hour live WWF Smackdown (Aug. 16), and two-hour premieres of Enterprise (Sept. 26) and Buffy (Oct. 2). "I think it's going to hit a lot of people like a ton of bricks that UPN is out there and out there in a very big way," says Rachel Clark, UPN's new senior vice president of marketing and media operations.
As for the actual campaigns, UPN executives say the Enterprise efforts will focus on its occurring—in series sequence—prior to the first Star Trek programs. "For decades, we've dreamed of traveling beyond our galaxy; this fall, we will," one on-air spot claims, targeting new viewers. The push is not aimed at loyal followers. "I don't think we are going to have any problem bringing Trekkies to the show," Clark says.
The Buffy campaign will play off the apparent death of Buffy in the final episode last season and the fact that she's back, and alive, on a new network. "Last season, Buffy died, or did she?" the spots ask. UPN executives say they didn't have a lot to work with in terms of past Buffy photos and clips.
"The WB has done everything they can to be sore losers over losing Buffy, in terms of getting past photos, Web-site stuff and all kinds of other nonsense," says Ware. "They were beneficiaries of getting Sabrina, the Teenage Witch from ABC, and they've seen the benefits of a show moving. They just want to do everything they possibly can not to help us, which I think just proves they are a little nervous about us getting Buffy."
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