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Unprecedented Push for ‘Files’

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Court TV plans to spend $6 million on promotion-its biggest promo-spending burst to date-to get viewers to tune in during January, when the network plans to premiere an original movie and debut new episodes of several series.
While Court will air much original fare next month, the push-which includes a substantial broadcast TV buy-actually is pegged to one show in particular, “Forensics Files,” a program plenty of viewers already watch.
The strategy is disarmingly simple, said Evan Shapiro, Court TV’s senior VP of marketing.
“By lifting `Forensic Files,’ all boats would rise. And that’s exactly how it happened, because `Forensics Files’ is the lead-in for every other show that we have in prime time from 9 o’clock on,” he said.
The network also has new episodes of “I, Detective,” “North Mission Road,” “Body of Evidence,” “Extreme Evidence,” “Hollywood Justice” and “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice” on the schedule, plus the premiere of a new series called “Caught.” However, the ads for “Forensic Files” won’t mention any other show.
Putting a tag on the end of a spot “doesn’t make you want to watch any more, and splitting the mind space between two programs doesn’t feel like what we need to do,” Mr. Shapiro said.
Once a viewer tunes in, the network uses its own on-air promotion to “drag the audience from show to show and intrigues them to come back night after night,” he said.
Even the Jan. 19 premiere of the network’s original movie, “Chasing Freedom,” starring Juliette Lewis, will receive little paid media support. Instead, Court TV will do publicity and grass-roots issues-related marketing for the film and count on on-air promotion during “Forensic Files” and its Saturday Night Solutions to attract viewers.
In the past, Mr. Shapiro said, Court TV would marshal its marketing money behind a special event or the premiere of an original movie. But with the success of “Forensics Files,” Court TV overruled itself and instead decided to back its top series, a show that appears every day of the week and has become central to the network’s new identity as the Investigation Channel.
“It’s our best-liked program and also a subject matter that happens to be enormously hot. Forensics is the subject of the moment on TV. It’s in almost every hour of prime time, and it’s all over the news as well,” Mr. Shapiro said.
The show-and others that focus on solving crimes and unraveling mysteries-makes for a good lead-in because the audience has to stay to the end to find out what happened.
“Our programming is built to compound the interest of the audience as it goes along,” Mr. Shapiro said. As evidence he cites statistics that show Court TV viewers stay with the network for longer stints than do viewers of almost any other network not relying heavily on movies. The network also has the second-highest rate on cable of retaining viewers through commercial breaks.
Court TV has been working on this strategy for a year. It got a preliminary hearing last January, when the network spent $2.5 million behind “Forensics Files” and sprinkled its schedule with premieres of other shows.
“What wound up happening, and as we predicted, was that driving the traffic to a show that’s on every night-`Forensic Files’-and a premiere, creates an interest in the show that’s larger than just the show itself. And what we saw was every night of the week last January went up substantially,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The residual effect lasted throughout the entire month of February, when we were doing no marketing.”
And while “Forensic Files” did well, shows that weren’t as well known-“I Detective” and “Body of Evidence”-benefited from the halo effect generated by “Forensic Files.”
Court TV is honing its media plan to draw more of an audience in the 18 to 49 age bracket. “Forensic Files” has drawn well with 18- to -34-year-old women, Mr. Shapiro said, and a part of the media plan is designed to capture them.
In local TV, “We’ll be cherry-picking markets and looking at local news broadcasts to help us get out to certain demographics in regions where we do very well,” he said.
Court TV is also using print to reach an upscale audience.
In addition to traditional media advertising, Court TV will use in-theater ads and viral and guerilla marketing methods.