Super Sunday for Oxygen, Deion and Pilar: Primetime Love

Women’s-Targeted Cable Network Uses Support from NBC Universal to Premiere Reality Show During Super Bowl

Oxygen called an audible for its Super Bowl programming plans, deciding on the fly to interrupt a game-day marathon of reality reruns Feb. 3 to showcase the pilot of its new Deion Sanders reality show.

Deion and Pilar: Primetime Love, featuring the former football and baseball star and his model/actress wife, will air on Oxygen precisely when Super Bowl XLII halftime begins on Fox.

The "SuperSneak Sunday" stunt came as new general manager Jason Klarman and Oxygen’s marketing team realized that the big game fell near the time it intended to begin its marketing push for the show. The series doesn’t premiere until April 15.

Oxygen’s not alone in trying to draw females during the game. Lifetime Television last week announced plans to run original movies on both the main channel and Lifetime Movie Network in a stunt labeled "Football-Free Movie Extravaganza." And Animal Planet slated its fourth-annual "Puppy Bowl," a marathon of dog shows.

The broadcast networks don’t seem to be trying as hard. NBC slated a Biggest Loser marathon, ABC scheduled Meet the Fockers and CBS slated reruns of Shark and Cold Case.

The second the game breaks for halftime, Oxygen will start the commercial-free, 22-minute episode, which will also stream on its Web site. The show, about the relationship between the notoriously flashy athlete (his nicknames include Primetime and Neon Deion) and his wife, will be introduced Sunday by Harry Kalas, whose voice is widely known as the announcer for NFL Films.

"This little show they call the Super Bowl is coming up and we’re a very nimble place and a very marketing-focused company," Klarman said of the last-minute switch. "He’s certainly one of the biggest stars football’s turned out and this is the biggest game on TV, so it behooves us to try and figure out what the opportunity is to make a big deal about the show."

Deion and Pilar will run in the middle of a marathon of Oxygen’s women-murderer reality series Snapped, ending in a new episode at 10 p.m.

The last-minute Deion decision didn’t leave Oxygen much time to get the word out to viewers. So the network is readying a trailer, which it will run on its own channel. It also hopes to dispatch the trailer to various Web sites and other NBC-owned outlets, such as USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Bravo.

Regardless, the Super Bowl stunt is just a kickoff for Oxygen’s promotion for the show, its first series premiere since having been acquired by NBC Universal for some $900 million three months ago.

The company is helping Oxygen to fund its push for Deion in much the same way it infused Bravo with marketing money to push Queer Eye for the Straight Guy after acquiring that network in 2002. Marketing plans for Deion include guerilla stunts at the Super Bowl in Arizona and showcasing the series on social-networking sites.