Mr. T, Comcast Team Up for TV Land

To help promote TV Land's wider availability across its cable systems, Comcast Corp.'s Eastern division enlisted The A-Team's Mr. T to command viewer attention.

In new cross-channel TV spots that began running in the Philadelphia market earlier this month, a man in boxing garb is shown running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

At first glance, the commercial is meant to resemble a movie trailer for an upcoming Rocky
sequel. In the spot, shot in wide-screen format, the would-be Rocky Balboa turns around, and Mr. T (whose star turn came as Clubber Lang in Rocky III) appears on screen and says he pities the fool who doesn't subscribe to Comcast Digital Cable.

As it rebuilds its recently acquired systems, Comcast is either adding TV Land for the first time or moving the service from digital basic to expanded analog. In greater Philadelphia, TV Land is now available to over 85 percent of subscribers, said Eastern division vice president of sales and marketing Michael Snyder.

By the end of the year, the network should be available on virtually all of Comcast's systems, he added.

Snyder sees no contradiction in Mr. T's pitching digital even as TV Land is moved to analog. That's because the MSO is entirely focused on selling digital these days.

"We answer our phones 'Comcast Digital Cable,'" Snyder said.

TV Land provided the talent for the Mr. T commercial, which was produced in-house with the help of a freelance crew. Snyder wrote and directed the spot, which is expected to run for the next several weeks.

Comcast doesn't typically devote a TV commercial to a single cable channel, Snyder said, but "things were aligned" for the Mr. T campaign.

The spark for the new ad came when Snyder heard an entertainment news report speculating that Sylvester Stallone was willing to do another Rocky

The ads should resonate especially well with Philadelphia viewers because the city was the setting for the Rocky
films. But Snyder said he also cut a version of the ad that could be used by other Comcast systems in acquisition campaigns.

Mr. T was "great to work with," Snyder said, even though it was "freezing cold and raining" when the commercial was shot in January.

Because TV Land provided Mr. T for the day, Comcast also enlisted him to talk up digital cable on local morning shows in Philadelphia. The actor even accompanied Comcast technicians on a digital-cable installation, surprising one unsuspecting customer.

TV Land regularly makes talent available to local cable operators, especially as they launch the network locally. For example, Dick Van Dyke Show
creator Carl Reiner recently hosted a luncheon for key ad sales clients at a Time Warner Cable system in Rochester, N.Y., according to TV Land vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Dennis Gillespie.

"Here's a show that's 40 years old, and it's still cultivating an audience," Gillespie said in explaining why a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based legend would agree to travel to towns like Rochester, Detroit and Chicago to represent cable operators.

The Mr. T spot for TV Land was "a great example of how we can link brands together," Snyder said, adding that Comcast wants to associate itself in consumers' minds with the content it provides.

TV Land also enlisted Mr. T to star in an ad sales video for the network, designed to help motivate system level executives to get more excited about the three minutes of local ad avails that TV Land offers its affiliates.