The arrival of Sex and the City's sixth season, with its debut June 22, is arguably the biggest television event of the summer. At least, HBO's marketing machine is working overtime to make it seem so.
From way back, HBO spent heavily on marketing, figuring it was hard enough to get people to pay for basic television and a real leap to have them pay even more for what was then mainly a movie channel. Today, 27 million homes pay for HBO. And HBO launches have become major affairs: Last week's Sex and the City
launch party attracted 1,200 people to a standing-room-only party at New York's Museum of Natural History.
Paid media is important for HBO as well but tricky, too. It buys local spot in New York and Los Angeles (the networks won't take national ads from a channel they consider a major competitor). HBO now spends $150 million annually to tout itself.
"Using our own air to promote our shows is certainly valuable in terms of driving retention, but off-channel media also is a critical component," says HBO Vice President of Marketing Courteney Freedman Monroe. "On-air is only going to reach our current subscriber base so it doesn't help bring in new subscribers."
Says Char Beales, president and CEO of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, from its beginning, HBO was "willing to fund the marketing not only for their network but also for the cable companies. HBO would say, 'We'll do a direct mailer for you,' and send out marketing materials with HBO all over it and the cable company's logo on the back."