HDTV Marketing: Hi-Def Programmers Go Extra Mile to Woo Affils

Jul 17, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Whether fully distributed or seeking their first carriage deal, high-definition programmers still must curry favor with affiliates in addition to consumers. Though the tactics for affiliate marketing vary depending on the extent of a network’s HD footprint, programmers are either pitching their hi-def channels for carriage or developing promotional campaigns to drive demand.

Here’s a look at how ESPN, Discovery HD Theater and Scripps Networks engage their affiliates and potential distributors.


At ESPN, “ESPN: The House” is one of the network’s annual affiliate promotions that’s tied in to both football and hi-def marketing. Winners get their homes completely outfitted with hi-def sets and various gadgets and gizmos that help the operator sell its hi-def products. This year ESPN has partnered with Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, Mediacom and the National Cable Television Cooperative for the promotion. The network expects a boost in ratings from “Monday Night Football” and will include increased inventory for affiliates to generate NFL-related local ad revenue.


Discovery HD Theater is developing an affiliate promotion connected with its flagship hi-def series “Discovery Atlas,” slated to debut in October. “Discovery Atlas” is a two-hour special that will be televised weekly in October and showcase a different country each week. The countries include China, Australia, Brazil and Italy. The goal of the promotion will be to drive hi-def take rates for affiliates with the premiere of this program, said Clint Stinchcomb, senior VP of new media at Discovery. Because Discovery HD Theater is fully penetrated, the affiliate marketing mission is to help affiliates increase the number of customers who have hi-def sets and programming.


Scripps Networks introduced hi-def versions of Food Network and HGTV this year. EchoStar inked a deal to carry HGTV HD, while Food HD has landed a handful of deals with smaller systems and a commitment to launch on EchoStar later this summer.

Scripps is solely focused on marketing to affiliates rather than to consumers and does so through traditional means-mailers, trade magazines, industry shows and in-person meetings. The company’s position is that its fare can hook both male and female viewers, whereas most HD programming has been weighted toward men in the form of sports and movies.

“What is it that will fuel the next round of growth?” asked Doug Hurst, senior VP of affiliate marketing for Scripps. “The next round will be more about bringing in the entire audience.”

The marketing of an HD network to an affiliate is a little more nuanced because distributors are already familiar with the brand, Mr. Hurst said. The key is to focus on what Scripps’ twin hi-def networks uniquely offer-lifestyle programming for adults 25 to 54, an underserved niche to date in hi-def, he said. He pointed out that a Simmons NCS survey reports that 30 percent of all hi-def set owners already are Scripps viewers.