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Gospel, DirecTV Sing a Local Tune

Gospel Music Channel and DirecTV Inc. will start spreading the word in Denver, Jacksonville, and Dallas-Ft. Worth today (Aug. 28).

The independent network and the No. 1 satellite-TV provider are combining on an acquisition-aimed cooperative campaign in those markets. It’s Gospel’s initial TV-advertising thrust and the first time a cable channel has been included within DirecTV’s local-to-local broadcast-station packages.

Brad Bentley, vice president of acquisition marketing at DirecTV, said Gospel sought national carriage, but “our capacity is tight.” So the parties agreed to the network’s inclusion within the local-to-local packages.

“Cable does this all the time,” he said. “Our national spectrum is valuable, but we think the network has appeal. We have already received positive feedback from customers where the service has launched. Now we want to see how it works as an acquisition vehicle.”

Bentley said the service would expand into other markets and even nationally, provided it reached certain penetration levels within a time period.

DirecTV also is offering Gospel in Minneapolis; Orlando; Philadelphia; Kansas City; Paducah, Ky., and Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Those are areas where it doesn’t have a relationship with the predominant cable operator.

Gospel, which has TV carriage deals with Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Corp, and Verizon Communications, expects to count 10 million subscribers by year-end, according to Genia Edelman, the network’s vice president of sales and marketing.

Gospel vice chairman Brad Siegel said the DirecTV arrangement affords Gospel great sampling through strong channel positioning: It resides as channel 15, except in Orlando, where it is channel 14.

The TV creative, integrating such diverse artists as Michael W. Smith (pop), Canton Jones (hip-hop) and George Huff (rhythm and blues), takes shape in the form of a 30- and 60-second spot that close with Della Reese preaching the tagline: “Do it for your faith. Do it for your family. Get Gospel Music Channel.”

The flight, covering broadcast buys across multiple dayparts in the three markets, runs through Sept. 18.

“The aim is to dispel the notion that this is a praise network and that its only fans are little old ladies in the back of churches or folks in a pew,” said Rob Farinella, president of Atlanta-based Blue Sky Agency.

“We want to change the perception of how people hear gospel; it’s a celebration of the variety of artists and genres that have been influenced by this music,” he said.