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Interest in 'Chopper’ Leaves Some Affiliates at (the) Gate

Discovery Channel executives said they were forced to limit cable-operator participation in a sweepstakes for the hot series American Chopper, after the network encountered overwhelming demand from affiliates.

The American Chopper Super Cycle Sweepstakes — the first such promotion built around the series — was originally open to cable systems with at least 25,000 subscribers who would vie for the grand prize: an American Chopper motorcycle built by the Teutuls, the owners of Orange County Choppers and stars of the show, Discovery’s highest-rated series with a 2.5 season-to-date household average.

But Discovery officials said they decided to limit participation in the sweepstakes to 150 systems after the network was flooded with responses when it began pitching the sweepstakes last fall.

“We could only fit so many people in hotel rooms,” said Discovery Networks director of national promotions, affiliate sales and marketing Danielle Mercurio, referring to the first-prize winners from each cable market that Discovery will send to bike rallies.

In addition to the grand prize, Discovery plans to send one local winner and a guest from each of the 150 participating cable systems to their choice of the Sturgis Bike Rally in Black Hills, S.D., or Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The sweepstakes runs from May 17 to June 30. During that period, Discovery said participating affiliates must run 250 30-second cross-channel promotions for the sweepstakes during any consecutive three-week window.

Operators can sell a seven-second tag to local advertisers.

The idea is that the promotions will drive traffic to the local advertisers’ stores, where subscribers can enter the sweepstakes.

Mercurio said local sponsors run the gamut from bike shops to restaurants and clothing boutiques.

Affiliates also must run 100 tune-in spots for American Chopper, which contain a 10-second tag operators can sell to local advertisers, Mercurio said.

Mercurio said the next affiliate promotion in the works for Discovery Networks would be tied to TLC’s popular While You Were Out.

A sweepstakes, called “Win While You’re Out,” is scheduled to run from September through November.