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Space Series Goal: Launch Sub Growth

New York -- Home Box Office is shooting for the stars inits efforts to create local-affiliate tie-ins to its hugely anticipated, new, 12-hourminiseries, From the Earth to the Moon, which debuts April 5.

Highlighting the premium network's ambitious plans forthe series are free previews of the pay channel next weekend, two-dozen local screeningevents around the country and an advertising and marketing campaign with costs estimatedat more than $8 million.

Olivia Smashum, vice president of subscriber marketing andbrand development for HBO, said the campaign would focus heavily on "strongacquisition-marketing promotion."

Cable affiliates will have access to more than 25 milliondirect-mail pieces targeting an upgrade audience, Smashum said -- the first time thatoriginal programming has been the "creative focus" of such an extensiveacquisition campaign.

Operators, Smashum said, would benefit from "thetremendous overlay of national media, complemented by local activity."

Nationally, HBO has run TV ads for the miniseries onnetwork broadcasts of high-profile events such as the Winter Olympic Games, the Oscars andthe NCAA college-basketball tournament, in addition to ads in national magazines andnewspapers. The Time Warner Inc.-owned pay network is also running trailers in movietheaters, as well as a national sweepstakes.

Locally, HBO is offering local affiliates incentiveprograms for subscriber acquisitions and "product-orientation" kits forcustomer-service representatives.

And in 25 markets across the country, HBO and localaffiliates are promoting the film and boosting the acquisition campaign by hosting localscreenings of segments of From the Earth to the Moon.

Cities that have affiliations with the aircraft industry orthe space program have been particularly appealing sites for the screenings.

Comcast's 35,000-subscriber Huntsville, Ala., system,for example, is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which was the site for lastweek's screening of a series segment. The space program, said Mary Dean, areamarketing and sales manager, "is a big part of our community, and the tie-in isobvious."

Community leaders and local politicians were invited to theheavily promoted screening, which Dean called "a wonderful opportunity for brandingand image" for the cable operator.

In Tulsa, Okla., home to a large Boeing Co. aircraftfactory, the local 160,000-subscriber Tele-Communications Inc. system held its screeningat the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. William Pogue, an original Apollo astronaut, attendedthe event, along with local politicians, business executives and subscribers.

After a week of promoting the series as part of itsacquisition campaign, Bill Severn, TCI's regional marketing manager, said the systemgained 600 HBO units.

Time Warner Cable's 200,000-subscriber system inColumbus, Ohio, held its screening at the city's Center of Science and Industry,headed by Kathleen Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space.

Susan Bass, the system's manager of public affairs,said the cable operator invited customers to attend the event via entry forms in itsmonthly guide. Demand, she said, exceeded supply.

The HBO miniseries runs in two-hour segmentsfor the next six weeks.