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Theres No Place Like TCM for Oz Fans

Turner Classic Movies hopes that when cable customers think of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, they'll think of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz as readily as picnics or fireworks.

The network has launched its second-largest marketing campaign of the year-trailing only its "31 Days of Oscar" event each March-aimed at driving tune-in for Oz. The film airs commercial-free for the first time in television history Monday night, July 3.

"We'll show this as an annual event," TCM director of affiliate marketing Laura Galietta said. "We're trying to get customers to make the connection with Turner Classic Movies for appointment holiday viewing," in much the same way Turner Network Television has become known for its annual Thanksgiving showing of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

TCM's affiliate campaign consists of both subscriber-acquisition and public-affairs elements.

In Albany, N.Y., the local Time Warner Cable affiliate is partnering with TCM and Habitat for Humanity International on a pilot partnership the network hopes to expand to other markets in future years.

In the public-affairs program, which runs from June 15 through July 3, Time Warner will make a cash donation to Habitat for each subscriber who upgrades to a tier that includes TCM. In addition, one-half of the installation fee for every new customer acquired by the system will be donated to Habitat's local chapter.

The funds will go toward building a house in the Albany area in late September or early October, Galietta said. At that time, Time Warner's local-access channel plans to televise the building process, so subscribers can see their contributions at work, she added.

To promote the Habitat program, Time Warner is running a TCM-produced spot on cross-channel. The operator has also sent postcards to nearly 60,000 nonsubscribers in the area.

TCM sent promotional kits hyping its Oz affiliate campaign to about 500 cable operators earlier this year. The list included about 100 nonaffiliates so they'd be aware of the kinds of marketing support they could expect if they signed the network.

The marketing elements included customizable print ads and cross-channel spots, radio trivia-contest questions (with prizes to a limited number of systems) and local screening opportunities for Oz.

Because the network had only a limited number of 35-millimeter prints of the movie, "it's something that not everyone can take advantage of," Galietta admitted. "We chose the screening markets on a first-come, first-served basis."

In Waltham, Mass., the local MediaOne Group Inc. system plans to screen the film on a Thursday night in July at a local park, where subscribers can bring their families.

"It's a competitive community for us," MediaOne Northeast region spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said. "RCN [Corp.] is there, too. We're always looking for ways to provide value to our customers."

Galietta said many of the screenings will be held after July, and they are not designed to drive tune-in to this year's televised airing of Oz.

In addition to its community-relations and subscriber-acquisition elements, the TCM affiliate campaign was also designed to reward existing customers.

In more than 40 TCM markets, consumers who show recent cable bills can receive 15 percent discounts on products at all Warner Bros. Studio Stores.

"It's a really big way for us to tie into the power of the Turner [Broadcasting System Inc.]/ Time Warner [Inc.] relationship," Galietta said. "And it's a way operators can give something back to their subscribers."

The Warner Bros. Studio Stores will fund the merchandise discounts, Galietta said, in an attempt to drive traffic to the retail outlets. The stores will also feature video walls promoting TCM's showing of Oz.

Galietta would not disclose the budget for the campaign, but she said the network is devoting "several million dollars" to promoting the classic film.