'No place is sacred' to hype shows

Monday, September 8, 2003

— When TBS Superstation executive Steven Koonin received a draft news release about upcoming TBS college football broadcasts, one word stopped him.

Marketing efforts were divided among print media, radio, television -- and "bathroom." In September, messages touting football on TBS will play in the men's restrooms of bars in 12 cities.

Koonin, executive vice president and chief operating officer of TBS and Turner Network Television, used the generic "alternative" to replace "bathroom." But he isn't at all averse to urinal ads.

Or to putting posters for National Basketball Assn. broadcasts on pizza boxes. Or hiring airplanes to tow banners over beachgoers for TBS' killer-shark movie "Red Water."

"It's usually done for 'Eat at Bud's Crabshack,' not 'Tune in to television.' But what better place to get your shark warning than at the beach?" Koonin said.

In TV's voracious and increasingly specific hunt for viewers, networks and cable channels are using any approach they can dream up. Expect to be bombarded with messages at every turn, more so with the approach of the fall TV season.

"No place is sacred," said Chris Carlisle, executive vice president for marketing and promotion at FX.

ABC tried marketing its failed sitcom "The Norm Show" with recorded audio in urinals. (TBS is going one better, using flat-screen monitors that play their message when a patron approaches.)

As part of its viewer outreach, CBS is giving away free, interactive DVDs at Blockbuster stores (like CBS, part of the Viacom conglomerate) that include clips from CBS' fall lineup and behind-the-scenes peeks at shows.

CD-ROM promo

HBO promoted its new series "Carnivale" with an Entertainment Weekly magazine insert inviting readers to "Experience The Mysterious World of Carnivale" and including a CD-ROM with scenes from the drama premiering in September.

The ad and CD-ROM went out to a relatively small group, about 500,000 magazine subscribers, but they represent the fans who are part of HBO's likely audience.