Charter System First to Back FX Originals Promo

Buoyed by last season's buzz from the gritty original crime series The Shield, FX has unveiled a yearlong affiliate-marketing and local ad-sales program involving that show and four other original primetime projects for next year.

Following a recent meeting with Fox Cable Networks Group, Charter Communications Inc. in Reno, Nevada, became the first affiliate to sign on. Fox Cable began disseminating information about the program via electronic mail and direct mail last Friday.

The Reno system will make use of the sweepstakes linked to The Shield's second season in January, and will consider another contest linked to the series Lucky, which bows in April, said Neil Olsson, general manager of the Charter Media ad-sales unit in Reno.

"We have a very promotional orientation in doing ad sales," Olsson said, adding that this effort should generate incremental local ad revenues. "This is the type of thing that's a really good vehicle to get advertisers involved [in original fare], and for a lot of other things."

Fox Cable senior vice president of affiliate marketing Janice Arouh said affiliates need not participate in the entire promotional package, but there are incentives to do so under the programmer's "FX Originals Rewards" plan.

FX will reward affiliates that take part in two of these promotions with an Argus digital camera. Those opting for three promotions will be rewarded with an Intel Play digital movie creator, and those involved in four or more will receive a five-disc DVD player.

"Affiliates can cherry-pick, based on their needs," she said. "They have complete flexibility."

For each promotion chosen, affiliates must run at least 200 spots during a two-week sweepstakes period within the overall promotional window, Arouh said. Besides taggable cross-channel spots, the Fox Cable affiliate materials include e-mail blasts, counter cards, ballot boxes, posters, an advertising one-sheet, postcards and scripts for radio and on-hold phone messages.

Contest keys efforts

The "Bring Justice Home Sweepstakes" will support The Shield, set for a Jan. 7 second-season premiere. This promotion, which stretches from Jan. 1 through March 25, will offer a state-of-the-art home-theater system as its grand prize, with an estimated retail value of $4,000. An LCD flat-screen TV, valued at $1,000, will go to the first-prize winner, with unspecified autographed Shield
collectibles as lesser prizes.

Lucky, a comedy series starring John Corbett as an unlucky poker player in Las Vegas, will be promoted via FX's "Lucky
in Las Vegas Sweepstakes" from April 1 through July 1.

Grand prize for that sweeps will be a Vegas vacation for 10 people, worth an estimated $10,000. A $500 shopping spree will go to the first-prize winner.

Three other original projects are in the works, as are their promo tie-ins.

Series Snitch, aiming for a third-quarter bow, will focus on a Los Angeles scam artist forced by the feds to become an inside informer.

The Pentagon Papers — about the secret report on the machinations behind the Vietnam War during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, leaked to the media by one of its authors, Daniel Ellsberg (James Spader) — is now slated for second-quarter 2003.

Flight 93, headed for the 2003 third quarter, will look at the last day in the lives of the passengers on that ill-fated Sept. 11 flight that went down in Pennsylvania.