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WE Romances Exclusive J&J Ad Deal

If Andrea Alstrum had her way, viewers of WE: Women's Entertainment's Cinematherapy
block would be able to smell the soothing scent of Johnson's Baby Powder right through their television sets.

But Alstrum, the corporate vice president of advertising at Johnson & Johnson, will have to settle for more discreet placement of baby powder and other J&J products on the set of Cinematherapy
and other WE programs.

WE, the Rainbow Media network previously known as Romance Classics, last week cut a deal with J&J that makes the company its exclusive sponsor for the next 18 months, beginning today (March 26).

Following the J&J sponsorship, which will consist mainly of "brought to you by" promos that surround WE programs and movies, the service plans to convert to ad-supported status in fourth quarter 2002.

In 1998, Romance Classics announced plans to switch to an ad-supported format in the fall of 1999. AMC Networks president Kate McEnroe said the network delayed the introduction of advertising so it could focus on building a brand and programming library.

"I think sometimes you can lose sight of your brand because you're so busy chasing ratings," McEnroe explained. WE, which isn't yet monitored by Nielsen Media Research, expects to subscribe to the ratings tracker as early as the second quarter of 2002 so it can participate in next year's upfront advertising market, McEnroe added.

McEnroe and J&J's Alstrum said the companies haven't worked out the details of their plan to place J&J products in WE programs. The executives said they haven't discussed the idea of digitally inserting J&J products into existing WE shows or movies, but neither company would rule out that possibility.

J&J hopes to market several of its brands through WE, including Tylenol, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Neutrogena and the rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade, Alstrum said.

When WE becomes an ad-supported network in September 2002, it will run eight minutes of national ads and offer cable operators two minutes of local avails per hour, McEnroe said. The advertising won't affect the network's monthly license fees, since it has been telling operators for some time that it had the right to add advertising, she added.

Last year, McEnroe said in an interview that she expected the network could generate $20 million annually in advertising.

As part of the deal, WE's brand will be placed on some J&J packages and at point-of-purchase locations, McEnroe said. Under the agreement, the network also plans to produce customized short-form programs about lifestyle and health-related issues.

WE, which faces stiff competition in the women's programming realm from an invigorated Lifetime Television and start-up Oxygen Media, dropped the Romance Classics moniker late last year.