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Showtime Seeks Summer Sub Growth

Showtime Networks Inc. plans to devote over $20 million to consumer branding and subscriber-acquisition efforts this summer — a season in which many of its competitors show repeats.

"It's an incredibly important window for us," said Showtime senior vice president of marketing Gina Goldberg.

Showtime plans to run its "Turn to great entertainment" campaign from May 15 through August 31. The effort will be backed by a free-preview weekend on participating affiliates' systems, direct mail, national consumer advertising, telemarketing and affiliate tie-ins.

"We are out [with aggressive marketing] probably more so than anyone in the summer because we really want to spotlight our new summer programming," Goldberg said. It will tout both series and films.

Among the series set to return this summer are Resurrection Blvd., Soul Food, Stargate: SG-1
and The Chris Isaak Show. Goldberg said the network would also introduce some new original series in July, but was not yet ready to give specific details about those programs.

Some of the hit theatrical films on tap for the season are Mission: Impossible II, Scary Movie
and Super Nova.
The summer campaign's national consumer marketing components will include television, print and outdoor ads, Goldberg said.

The pay TV programmer also plans to play up its three new multiplex feeds, Showtime Next, Showtime Women and Showtime FamilyZone, each of which launched last month.

The programmer will highlight the availability of the services in local marketing materials created for affiliates that offer them. Showtime also plans to tout the package on the main channel, through its "Showtime Unlimited" branding effort.

Goldberg would not disclose distribution figures for the three feeds, but said affiliate reception has been enthusiastic.

Subscribers who sign on to Showtime during the promotional period surrounding the preview weekend can receive a $20 gift certificate to The Sharper Image from participating cable affiliates. Goldberg said cable operators can customize their marketing messages to incorporate the Sharper Image incentive, along with any other offers of their own, such as free digital cable installation.

"We certainly encourage the use of any and all special offers that will help encourage subscriber growth," Goldberg said.

As with other campaigns, customer call-center representatives are a major component of Showtime's summer promotion. "It's incredibly important that customer contact personnel have a good understanding of our offer," Goldberg said.

The network encourages its affiliates to make a video-showcase library available to call-center employees that don't have access to all of Showtime's programming. The network also hosts regular screenings of new series and original movies in some markets, renting a local movie theater and inviting customer-service reps and their families.