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Spike Sharpens 'Blade' Campaign

June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Spike TV's first scripted series, "Blade," will receive the most expensive marketing campaign in the channel's three-year history. The plan includes joining forces with "Blade" production company New Line to take advantage of the distributor's experience promoting feature films. Buying advertising through New Line gained Spike TV some rate discounts to help bombard viewers via print, online and on-air ads. "We're definitely leveraging their power out there," said Dario Spina, senior VP of marketing for Spike. "We want to launch it in a big way. It's analogous to our summer tentpole movie release." The two-hour June 28 premiere will be exclusively sponsored by Alltel and Harley-Davidson, which is providing the title character's new vehicle of choice for vampire hunting.

-James Hibberd



Salma Hayek: Telenovela Star

Executive producers have to work hard to get their pilots picked up to series. For Salma Hayek, one of the executive producers behind ABC's upcoming fall drama "Betty the Ugly," duties included a cameo role in the pilot. The Oscar-nominated Ms. Hayek appears as a passionate nurse, complete with a tight, low-cut blouse, in the "show-within-the-show" Spanish-language soap opera that runs in the background during several scenes. Besides the comedic value of Ms. Hayek's over-the-top acting, her scenes may allude to "Betty's" origins: The pilot is an adaptation of the wildly successful Argentinian telenovela "Betty la Fea." Preparing for the cameo was not a problem for Ms. Hayek, either-she began her acting career on a Mexican telenovela.

-Christopher Lisotta



Katie Taking Time to Listen

Before she makes her Sept. 5 debut as anchor of the "CBS Evening News," Katie Couric is going on a "listening tour" of six cities in which 100 so-called regular folks will be able to talk to her-no press coverage allowed-about what they are interested in seeing on the revamped newscast. Ms. Couric also will headline a charity event in each city; Denver and San Diego were known stops as of last week. CBS News says the tour was Ms. Couric's idea. (It's perhaps worth noting that the news star's outside publicist Matthew Hiltzik helped coordinate a 1999 "listening tour" that helped transform Hillary Clinton from a former first lady into New York's junior senator.) Asked how much a 22-minute broadcast truly could be impacted by feedback gathered on such a tour, "Evening News" executive producer Rome Hartman said: "We are not going to furiously scribble down everything that everybody says and then turn around and remake the newscast in the image of this. But it is a genuine effort to hear people out, and I think we're going to come to the end of it and be able to compare notes and say, 'You know what struck me? There were some really interesting, consistent threads.'" Nor does Mr. Hartman have a problem with the no-press-allowed rule, because "The idea is, 'What can we do to make sure that these are as comfortable and as natural as possible? Where people will really feel they're not performing, they're not on stage, they're not being asked to make sound bites?' If you have cameras and lights, it changes the conversation. … We're not banning anybody. I don't think there's any issue about freedom of the press."

-Michele Greppi



Deadwood Chic

Last week HBO announced a licensing deal for a line of clothing inspired by David Milch's gritty Western drama "Deadwood." Or, put another way, last week HBO announced a line of clothing inspired by a ratings-challenged and recently canceled show that takes place 130 years ago and whose characters sometimes wear tattered garments smeared with mud, blood and horse manure. Western wear retailer Billy Martin's USA Inc. will design the clothing using "some of the Western industry's finest artisans, silversmiths and designers," according to the press release. Billy Martin's will roll out the line in August, just in time for the last episode of the show's final full season.

-James Hibberd



No Experience Possible

Google's been looking for a product manager for interactive TV since at least the end of March. Maybe that's because it is basically looking for someone who has experience doing something that no one has done before. The job posting reads: "As product manager, you will provide leadership on product vision and execution strategies that enhance the user's experience when watching television and using Google's search and advertising technologies." Of course, Google hasn't "officially" penetrated the TV ad market yet-wink, wink-but the job opening is further evidence that Google isn't just interested in organizing TV schedules online.

-Daisy Whitney