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Starz Hoists Marketing Flag For New Original ‘Black Sails’

For its latest original series, Starz is setting sail on its most comprehensive sampling and marketing campaign to date.

Already renewed for a second season, Black Sails, executive produced by Transformers overseer Michael Bay, will make its U.S. linear premiere on Starz on Jan. 25 at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). The show will air in more than 120 countries/territories worldwide.

Prior to the linear launch of the prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, Starz will engage in a multiplatform sampling initiative and linear preview effort beginning Jan. 18 that encompasses online and on-demand platforms, including traditional multichannel/MVPD afiliates and non-traditional digital partners such as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes Podcasts, Machinima, Maxim and Xbox Video.

Building on gambits it has deployed to introduce other originals, including DaVinci’s Demons, Magic City and the Spartacus franchise, Starz’s unprecedented flag-waving for Black Sails is aimed at boosting awareness for the show and the brand, viewing and ultimately consumer acquisition of the service.

“We think Black Sails is a special show and Michael Bay’s involvement speaks volume to its quality,” Nancy McGee, executive vice president of consumer marketing for Starz Entertainment, said. “We’re placing a lot of effort behind driving demand for the show and think it also has great value for our affiliates.”

Starz, in a co-branded gambit with Time Warner Cable, screened the first episode — the inaugural campaign comprises eight installments, the sophomore run extends to 10 — last summer at Comic-Con in San Diego, where it was received well by fans of pirate-genre fare.

McGee said while such content skews male, Starz thinks Black Sails will attract its share of women, attracted by its dramatic and action components. “There are historical elements and it’s a gritty conflict,” Thornton said, pointing toward the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones as a program that also garners female viewership.

The tale has also traveled well across international waters. Reflective of the story’s strength and relationships forged with partners abroad on previous projects, Black Sails represents Starz’s strongest global pre-sale for an original series to date.

“There is great awareness worldwide for the show and our brand,” Starz chief revenue officer Michael Thornton said. “It’s nice to have strong international revenue coming out of the gate.”

Overall, McGee said Starz wants to create buzz for the show and help stoke acquisition of the service. The sampling efforts, with both traditional distribution affiliates and over-the-top players, highlight call-to-action messaging.

Starting on Jan. 12, Starz is partnering with Charter Communications on an instant-upgrade premium acquisition campaign with customized promotional spots and a sweepstakes component with Luke Arnold, who plays John Silver.

“We’re all trying to break through with consumers,” McGee said. “There’s always a sense of challenge, a temptation to try and do something that’s never been done before. Our focus has been on reaching a core audience and helping our partners to advance their businesses. There is a wide breadth of sampling and marketing, and we’re looking forward to excellent executions of our tactics.”

Sampling outlets include: Starz On Demand and Starz.com, Starz Play and the Starz YouTube channel and Facebook page; Comcast’s Xfinity TV, Xfinity TV app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch and Facebook page; DirecTV on Demand, Audience Network, DVR push, directv.com and Facebook page; Dish Network’s Blockbuster Studio channel, DishOnline.com, DVR push and Facebook page; and on-demand platforms proff ered by Armstrong, Bend Broadband, Bright House, Blue Ridge, Buckeye, CenturyLink, Cequel, Choice Puerto Rico, Cincinnati Bell, Click!, Consolidated, Everest, HTC, MCTV/Clear Picture Inc., Midcontinent Communications, Service Electric Cablevision and SureWest Communications.

Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Machinima will offer up the first episode, as well as additional featurettes, on Jan. 18.

TAKEAWAY

New Starz pirate drama Black Sails will get underway with a major cross-platform push from the premium programmer.