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Discovery Lines Up Ops for BellTour

Discovery Channel will call on affiliates in 10 markets to tie-in with its traveling exhibit, "The Lost Spacecraft:Liberty Bell 7Recovered."

The network will work with operators to promote their digital-cable offerings-particularly Discovery Wings-at co-branded tour venues, said Discovery Networks U.S. director of sales strategy for affiliate sales and marketing Amy Houser.

Time Warner Cable took part in Florida, the tour's first stop last summer, and Comcast Corp. linked up at the current stop in Indianapolis, Discovery Communications Inc. senior vice president of exhibits and events Andrew Holtzman said last week.

The 6,000-square-foot interactive exhibit, which visited the Kennedy Space Center last summer, opened on Oct. 7 at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis, where it will run through Jan. 7.

"This is a tremendous digital marketing opportunity," said Houser, who added that Comcast may also host a reception to talk up digital service to community and government figures.

Time Warner Cable staged an "enter to win" contest in Orlando and Tampa backed by 1,500 cross-channel spots. The operator also amassed 4,500 digital-cable leads from those entries, Holtzman noted.

In Indianapolis, Comcast will run a contest offering a parent/child trip to Space Camp.

The next stop will be the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., from January into June. Since that site is so near the New York DMA, Houser said, Discovery will seek affiliates from across the metropolitan area.

Liberty Bell 7was the space capsule flown by astronaut Gus Grissom in the second U.S. manned space mission in 1966. Upon its return, it sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and wasn't found until last year, when it became the subject of a Discovery special,In Search of Liberty Bell 7.

At each venue, Discovery-createdLiberty Bell 7merchandise will be sold. A video of the primetime special was the biggest seller at Kennedy Space Center, said Holtzman.

St. Louis and San Jose, Calif., will get the tour in the second half of 2001, Houser said, with Boston, Oklahoma City and Los Angeles slated for 2002 and Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Worth, Texas, in 2003.

The Smithsonian Institution's Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., will also be on the schedule, but Houser said those dates are not yet set.

The tour will conclude in 2003, unless Discovery can obtain an extension for another two years, Holtzman said.

Created in partnership with BBH Exhibits Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, the exhibit features the recovered capsule and also takes visitors on a virtual ride into space, then underwater.