Fox Family Scares Up Biggest Promo

Fox Family Channel, which since July has pitched systems on its third annual "13 Days of Halloween" sweepstakes promotion, now boasts that 212 affiliates have signed on.

And as those affiliates reach 35 million subscribers, network president of distribution John Burns can claim the effort is "the largest multi-level affiliate promotion in the network's history."

All of the major MSOs are represented, with AT & T Broadband accounting for 30 percent of the total, Time Warner Cable 20 percent and Comcast Corp. 15 percent, a network spokeswoman said last week.

Last fall's promo drew affiliates reaching 11 million homes.

The sweepstakes, slated to run Sept. 25 to Oct. 19, offers a family trip to a haunted London castle as its grand prize. The castle will be featured on Fox Family's five-part seriesThe Scariest Places on Earth, which starts Oct. 23.

In addition, 19 first-prize families will win trips to a Universal Studios "Halloween Horror Nights" event in Hollywood, Calif., or Orlando, Fla. Fox Family will give each participating system 1,000 videotapes of itsScariest Placesspecial in a bid to drive their subscriber sign-up or retention efforts. Operators can use the tapes as gifts to entice new subscribers, reward loyal customers, or enhance their local ad-sales efforts, Burns said.

For the local-sales component, Fox Family has produced a special 30-second sweepstakes spot designed to drive viewers to system sponsors' retail outlets. Point-of-sale displays at those locations will provide entry forms.

In addition, Burns said, 18 affiliates will be able to offer advertisers the opportunity to host a pumpkin-carving Halloween party, featuring local craftsmen.

Fox Family also will run separate incentive contests for affiliates' ad sales and customer-service representatives, he said. Those staffers will compete for a trip for two to Universal's Orlando theme park, with the ad-sales winner based on the biggest buy and the CSR winner on the most new subscriber connections.

The network's minimum campaign requirement for the Halloween stunt will be 200 sweepstakes spots and 200 tune-in spots, to be run throughout the four-week promotion. Fox Family sent participating affiliates a kit that contains taggable promo spots as well as a CD-ROM with a customizable acquisition/retention postcard, five point-of-sale entry displays, ad slicks and 10 "13 Days of Halloween" posters.

On the consumer marketing front, Fox Family will partner with Kraft Inc.'s Post Cereals division, inserting interactive sound chips in boxes of Honeycomb cereal and two other cereal brands. Those chips will emit scary sounds whenever the boxes are opened.

There will be virtually no escape from the promotion, as Fox Family will distribute sound-chip cards at 4,500 Blockbuster Video stores. It also plans to plug its program stunt on restaurant cards and via stickers on 15 million apples, to be sold in supermarkets.

Fox Family plans 100 hours of Halloween-themed programming Oct. 19 through Oct. 31, including such new series asThe Zack Files,Real ScaryStories.comandThe Fearing Mind. Last year's event culminated with the premiere ofCasper Meets Wendy, a highly rated original movie.

Marketer and media interest in Halloween appears to be on the rise. Another cable network promotion due this fall is Turner Network Television's annual "Trick or Treat" UNICEF promotion. This time, Turner Network Sales is tailoring an exclusive promotion around the effort for 40 Time Warner Cable systems.

American Movie Classics is in the third year of its own Halloween-themed "Monsterfest" promotion, which is tied in to a package of horror films and an original special. This year's special isBride of Monster Mania, an Elvira-hosted Oct. 31 salute to the women of horror.

And other networks plan Halloween-related programming sans the promotional tie-ins. The Learning Channel will offer 10 specials (from aTwisted TalesHalloween SpecialandHaunted HistorytoStephen King: Master of the Macabre).Discovery Channel will offerVampire HunterandOn The Inside: The Real Ghostbusters. USA Network will run an original movie,Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula.