HBO Mines for Deadwood Viewers

How desperate is Home Box Office to get a crowd for its male-skewing western drama, Deadwood? In advance of the Sunday, March 6, premiere of the second season, HBO is dispatching teams to leave 10,000 golden nuggets in each of four cities: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

The nuggets will be inscribed with the Deadwood logo, a number, and a Web site, which gold diggers visit to see if they’ve won $450 cash (about the market price for an ounce of gold) or Deadwood DVDs. With The Sopranos not due back for a new season until 2006 and a certain ABC show about a bunch of suburban housewives getting all the Sunday attention, HBO is taking no chances.

HBO is also decorating Manhattan’s subway shuttle between Grand Central Station and Times Square saloon-style with faux-wood finishing—the first marketing venture of the sort for New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. (HBO also included DVD screeners of the first season’s first episode in weekend issues of The New York Times sent to some 200,000 Times subscribers).

The campaign’s budget ranked up there with HBO superstar shows The Sopranos and Sex and the City in the $10 million range.

An HBO rep said that the campaign had "nothing to do with Desperate Housewives," noting HBO’s strategy of repeating programs and providing them on-demand: "We don’t mind if you don’t watch [Deadwood] on Sundays."