Cable works. That's the message the networks are pushing at their annual ad-market dog-and-pony shows this year. And they offer proof.
Hallmark Channel execs, for example, boasted last week of product-placement deals the network has signed or is pursuing. In a cable market glutted with channels, they maintain, value-added incentives make the difference.
Claratin has already signed on as an exclusive sponsor for new Hallmark film The Long Shot, starring Marsha Mason, airing April 18. More radically, when Hallmark airs a remake of The Parent Trap
on June 13 and 24, Kraft Foods will be the epitome of Hallmark's "Sponsorship Solutions Unit": Kraft gets mentioned in every single on-air promo, on every billboard, and on links from Hallmark's Web site. Commercials will be limited to just four minutes per hour, all for Kraft products.
Hallmark won't offer "entitlement enhancements" for all 36 of its new made-for-TV movies, but it will move aggressively to fit as many in as it can.
On Father's Day, June 20, the network's showing of two-part Le Femme Musketeer,
starring Nastassja Kinski and John-Rhys Davies, will have tie-ins with Ace Hardware and Subaru, as well as point-of-purchase displays at 4,300 Hallmark stores.
Bill Abbott, executive vice president of national advertising, says Hallmark has taken several movie scripts to ad giant OMD, offering an early peek to see where some of its clients might naturally add product placements. He's hoping to see 40 new advertisers this season and a 75% increase in upfront revenue.
Other big titles for Hallmark include The Hollywood Mom's Mystery, starring George Hamilton, which will be part of Hallmark's surprisingly popular Sunday mystery package. Two other miniseries are in Hallmark's bag: King Solomon's Mines, starring Patrick Swayze, and Frankenstein, starring William Hurt and Donald Sutherland.
As for off-net, it will pick up cable rights to JAG
from USA in January, maybe sooner.
At Court TV, meanwhile, "Return on Investment" is the theme of the 2004 marketing effort. From sifting through Nielsen, Simmons and Media Dynamics research, CEO Henry Schleiff claims Court retains viewer interest more than other any other cable network (except GSN). To capitalize on this, the network pushes what it calls CPMI, or cost per thousand involved.
On April 11, Court TV premieres reality pilot The Chase, where professional trackers pursue handcuffed fugitives in a race for a prize. Russell Simmons Presents: Hip Hop Justice
goes behind the scenes on the urban-music wars. Court TV & Sundance Channel Project
will explore social issues in short films from such directors as Forest Whitaker and Bob Balaban.