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New TCM Unit Sets Focus on the Brand

Turner Classic Movies has already made some brand-extension moves by issuing home videos and soundtrack CDs. Now, with this month's announcement of a new department focused solely on outside branding and Internet efforts, the classic film channel will redouble its efforts.

The network has plotted a deliberate but steady rollout of licensing and merchandising agreements meant to give it a presence in a variety of alternate media.

Kathleen Evans, recently appointed to the new post of senior vice president of TCM Enterprises and new media, was pegged to implement this strategy. She said her goal is to "bring TCM into new marketplaces and get exposure for the brand that will help us win over new users and customers who may not stumble onto the channel by more conventional means."

Off-channel consumer categories in which TCM hopes to increase its brand presence include publishing, housewares, accessories, collectibles, gifts, novelties and stationery.

TCM is also in the early stages of creating new content and applications for its Web site. Evans said the makeover will be significant.

"I think the Internet is where you'll see TCM's most immediate changes," Evans said. "It's going to mean a Web presence that will build and reinforce interest in classic movies.

"I'm talking about supplementary information and content for every movie that's presented on TCM," he said. "Upgrading that cyberspace tie-in is something we feel to be really important in helping cultivate people's interest in-and love of-these films."

On the licensing and merchandising side, Evans maintained that the new TCM plan calls for a refocused approach to managing the brand.

"We're not just in it for the revenue," Evans said. "We hope there is business out there to be had, don't get me wrong.

"But whatever we get into will have to be products that fit our brand's image and promote the same sensibility that we push on the channel," she said. "There has to be a sophistication in the merchandising and licensing that matches the TCM brand or we're not interested. The business model has to work.

"The partnerships have to make sense, because we honestly have no interest in selling out. This is as much about cultivating a new audience for the network as it is extending our branding into the marketplace."

Among retail categories in which TCM sees substantial consumer branding opportunities are publishing, which includes books aimed at specific movie genres, and stationery goods, such as printed note cards featuring dialogue from TCM films.

But Evans cautioned that folks shouldn't expect to see dozens of TCM-emblazoned goodies flooding the marketplace this year, or even next. The network is looking to begin putting deals in place in 2001.

"Luckily, we have the luxury of time to be able to do this the right way," she said. "We've been thinking about this kind of extension for years," said Evans. "But we felt the need to give the TCM brand time grow and gain recognition.

"Yet even now that we are a known commodity; we don't want to rush things," she added. "Getting products out into the marketplace can take years. On the other hand, the time frame matters less than doing things the right way."