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A&E Spies Affil Opportunities in MI-5 Link

Taking aim at the top 50 DMAs, A&E Network is vying to bolster consumer awareness of the upcoming series MI-5 while also assisting affiliates' local ad-sales and marketing efforts, via a promotion offering a trip to London.

The network is also poised to launch a multimedia campaign trumpeting new series and specials that will fall under the "Art of Entertainment" tagline.

A&E director of affiliate marketing Jennifer Ball said the network is exploring the possibility of including a visit to a spy museum — and to the studio where MI-5
is shot — as part of the London trip.

The series, based on the exploits of the British equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency and co-produced by the British Broadcasting Corp., bows July 22.

A&E said affiliates have the option of using the MI-5
trip as a consumer or business-to-business prize.

More than 50 affiliates and interconnects have signed on to the promotion, reaching a combined 21 million subscribers, Ball said. Participants began promoting the series for three weeks via cross-channel spots, beginning July 14.

About 60% of the participants are using the promotion for local ad sales, Ball estimated. The rest are focused on local marketing efforts, from promoting high-speed Internet access — as Cox Communications Inc. is doing in some of its markets via its own online sweepstakes — to supporting basic-acquisition or upgrade campaigns, she said.

Most of the affiliates are Comcast Corp. systems, Ball said.

For Cox and others looking to hype high-speed Web access, Ball said A&E is supplying promo spots designed to drive traffic to its own or affiliates' Web sites, to view a promo for the MI-5
series and play related interactive games.At the Television Critics Tour last week, A&E Networks vice president of film drama and performing arts Delia Fine said that under the planned "Art of Entertainment" campaign, the network will refine its programming to three distinct genres: the arts of biography, documentary and drama.

A&E will launch four new documentary series in late summer and early fall, including The Letters, in which celebrities read passages from letters written by the famous and infamous; Meet The Royals, chronicling the world's most prominent families; House Of Dreams, a reality series in which 13 people team to build a house, but only one gets to live in it; and Take This Job, which shows how people transform regular jobs into a way of life.

The network will also produce eight new original movies based on Agatha Christie mysteries, as well as an adaptation of the classic The Mayor Of Casterbridge. Other films in production include profiles of King Charles II in The Last King
and a family of lions in Pride.

R. Thomas Umstead contributed to this story.