Biography Goes Country

The Biography Channel is leveraging America’s interest in country music by scheduling five profiles of the genre’s top stars and setting a local ad-sales initiative for the week leading up to the Country Music Association Awards next month.

The week of country music-related entertainment will include a special, Race to the Red Carpet: CMA Awards 2006. When the channel launched this programming strategy last year, the Lee Ann Womack-hosted show was the highest-rated special on the network in 2005. The CMAs will air Nov. 6 on ABC.

Biography Channel marketing executives are offering an ad sales promotional component to local affiliates in up to 40 target markets, customizable to local sales and product acquisition objectives.

Affiliates can mine their local data to create a mailing list to target likely Biography viewers with tune-in information of the special CMA-related content, while customizing marketing materials provided by the network to sell cable upgrades or product bundles, according to Biography vice president of marketing John Hartinger.

Each market that participates in the promotion will be able to give away a trip for two to Nashville for the awards show, including airfare; three nights accommodations; tickets to Nashville tourist sites such as the Country Music Hall of Fame; plus dining and transportation vouchers.

Local cable management can decide whether to use the prize package as an advertising incentive, an employee reward or a consumer sweepstakes prize. Systems in participating markets must commit to running 300 cross-channel spots, running between Oct. 23 and Nov. 3, to promote Biography’s genre push.

One of the participating affiliates is Charter Communications Inc.’s Central Division, which serves Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Nebraska. Matt Kochan, director of marketing, said his division was attracted to campaign’s promotional material that may help the operator attract upscale women. Biography executives say research shows the channel ranks second among all cable and broadcast networks in its ability to draw that demographic — defined as women in homes with household incomes of $100,000 or more.

Kochan noted that many of Charter’s systems in those markets are in suburbs, rather than major cities, so radio is the preferred advertising medium. Charter will take the Biography campaign, and turn the media planning over to Cooper-Smith Advertising LLC of Toledo, Ohio.

“They have a great relationship with radio stations,” Kochan said of Cooper-Smith, adding that the agency will barter Biography premiums with the radio stations to get on-air mentions of Biography programming, in addition to advertisements on the stations.

Kochan said the Biography promotion is a good example of the kind of flexible campaign operators like to see: solid basic materials that can be customized to the needs of a local system, whether it’s attracting local advertisers or selling more cable services.

Biography’s Hartinger said the week of programming is a natural base on which to build a promotion.

“There’s really something special in the bond between country performers and their audience,” he said, noting that they’ve watched some performers, such as profilee LeAnne Rimes, grow up during her career.

Other profiles include Mavericks of Country: Men and Mavericks of Country: Women.