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Showtime Sets Heavy Push for Bout, Concert

The broadcast networks aren't the only outlets planning big events for February. Showtime will back its one-two primetime punch for Feb. 22 — a live concert from hip-hop star Jay-Z and a Mike Tyson boxing match — with significant promotional wallop.

Though it's not driven by ratings during the sweeps period, as the broadcasters are, Showtime senior vice president of marketing Geof Rochester said last Wednesday that the premium network wants to serve its distributors well.

"We wanted to start off [the new year] aggressively," the onetime Comcast Corp. marketing executive said. "The sooner we put subscribers on in the year, clearly the more money [the affiliates] will make."

Showtime also wants to continue to draw in younger subscribers, from the 18-to-34-year-old age bracket. That group accounts for 50 percent of the network's new customers at any given time, said senior vice president of advertising and promotions Stephanie Gibbons.

Consumers who sign up in time for the live doubleheader get a $50 rebate.

Scheduling two live events on the same night is a first for Showtime, the executives noted, but likely not a last. Both events originate from Memphis, Tenn., with Jay-Z taking the stage at 9 p.m. and Tyson's bout with Clifford Etienne set for 10 p.m.

The executives wouldn't estimate the campaign's overall value or identify its largest component. "We're marketing on every level," Gibbons said.

Showtime will run spots on several networks owned by parent Viacom Inc. — CBS, UPN and MTV: Music Television — as well as on ESPN and ESPN2. A Showtime-produced 30-minute special, Jay-Z & Mike Tyson: The Music & the Muscle,
will air on CBS and UPN stations in 12 markets, and Showtime itself.

American Urban Radio and Viacom-controlled Westwood One are in the media mix, as are live announcements on Infinity Broadcasting Corp.'s Howard Stern radio show and Infinity-owned sports-talk stations. (Infinity is Viacom's radio unit.)

Print buys include TV Guide
and USA Today, while telemarketing and outdoor efforts (in five key markets) are also in place. Tyson/Jay-Z posters will appear in 2,000 urban record stores, along with flyers targeting the club scene.

Showtime also hopes for a substantial spillover audience from the fight that night for a sneak preview of Family Business. The series, about a family in the adult-entertainment industry, will subsequently air on Fridays at 11:30 p.m.