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Starz, Nintendo Play a Promo Game

There will be some fun and games during the upcoming free weekend preview for Starz and Black Starz.

Through an integrated marketing partnership with Nintendo of America Inc. announced on Sept. 24, Starz Encore Group LLC will help promote the networks' Oct. 5 to Oct. 7 fall preview weekend by offering viewers a chance to win one of 500 GameCube systems. Winners will be selected at random from those who dial a toll-free telephone number during the preview.

In addition to the consoles — which aren't scheduled to reach retail shelves in the U.S. until Nov. 18, according to Starz Encore — 4,000 other Nintendo items will be given away during the promotion.

Six months in the making, the promotion will carry the "Win It Before You Can Buy It" tag line in an array of marketing materials.

Starz officials are confident the allure of Nintendo's next-generation system — which would vie with Sony's Playstation 2 and Microsoft Corp.'s ballyhooed XBox systems in the lucrative video-game category during the upcoming holiday season — will bolster preview viewing and, ultimately, subscriber acquisition.

"This is really unprecedented, getting to work with Nintendo on one of its biggest product launches ever," said recently hired Starz senior vice president of consumer marketing Jeremy Harris. "Starz and Black Starz will be the exclusive place for consumers to get this product in the U.S. for six weeks. This tie-in promotion is the biggest ever for a cable industry preview weekend. It is going to create a lot of excitement and good results."

Harris said the promotion would cross several consumer planes to benefit Starz's acquisition goals and stoke awareness for Nintendo.

"Kids influence their parents about all kinds of purchases," he said. "This will work both ways, because parents are going to be excited about trying to get this system for their kids. At the same time, Starz Encore Super Pak has been a driver for digital cable for kids and family programming with WAM! [America's Kidz Network] and Starz Family. We think this is a perfect tie-in."

Harris said Starz Encore will incorporate Nintendo "from stem to stern" in all of the marketing materials that tout its weekend blitz. The video-game maker would be mentioned in commercials, cross-channel spots, on-air interstitials, print ads and its Web site, as well as in bill stuffers and customer call-in initiatives, he said.

Nintendo's link with Starz Encore is one of the first salvos in a $75 million, fourth-quarter multimedia campaign in support of GameCube.

According to Nintendo officials, the push will center on seven different TV spots that will air during broadcast primetime, Saturday morning children's fare and on MTV: Music Television, among other outlets.