Sponsors Take on ‘Roots’ For TV One

Mar 26, 2007  •  Post A Comment

TV One has signed up Southwest Airlines and the U.S. Army as presenting sponsors of its 30th anniversary presentation of the landmark miniseries “Roots.”

Sponsorship packages include elements beyond spots in the miniseries, which will be shown next month, and in “Roots: The Next Generation,” which will appear during the summer. The deals include billboards, online advertising and video-on-demand content.

A joint venture of Comcast and Radio One aimed at African American families, the TV One cable channel is now in 36.6 million homes. It ranked 54th among cable networks in total viewers last year.

TV One is creating original content around the event, including vignettes featuring members of the original cast and other notables. Interviews on the impact of “Roots” are planned with Ben Vereen, LeVar Burton, Louis Gossett Jr., Leslie Uggams, Richard Roundtree, author Alex Haley’s brothers George and Julian Haley, Quincy Jones, Dick Gregory, Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

The network is also producing “Roots Recap Moments” that will appear before each episode and carry messages from sponsors.

A program as important as “Roots” wasn’t a hard sell,” said Keith Bowen, executive VP of advertising sales and marketing for TV One.

Mr. Bowen said he took the project to key clients to pitch them as presenting sponsors. In addition, other clients such as Allstate signed on for ad packages.

Mr. Bowen declined to say how much he is charging the sponsors, but he said the ads are the highest-priced in TV One’s history. The network is projecting high viewership and getting a cost-per-thousand commensurate with the quality of the programming, he said.

Mr. Bowen also used the show to persuade some new marketers to advertise on the network. He said two have already signed on and as many as seven could be on board by the time the show airs.

“It took marquee programming like this to push them over the edge,” he said.

TV One has helped Southwest reach the more mature 25- to 54-year-old segment of the African American population, said Marian Thompson, multicultural marketing specialist at Southwest Airlines.

TV One has focused on that age group among African Americans as Viacom’s BET, the 26th-ranked cable channel in total viewers last year, has gone after younger audiences.

“We’re proud to participate in the marketing of the 30th anniversary of ‘Roots,’ Ms. Thompson said. “It shows that Southwest is interested in this segment.”

Southwest has also increased its participation in another TV One project, becoming the key sponsor of an original reality show, “David E. Talbert’s Stage Black.” The show, scheduled to debut in July, is set backstage as 10 contestants compete for a part in the touring company of Mr. Talbert’s play “Love in the Nick of Tyme.”

Southwest is also sponsoring the play, with mentions in the tour booklet, playbill and other advertisements. TV One is also an official sponsor of “Love in the Nick of Tyme.”

TV One officials said they’ve also had preliminary conversations about the play appearing on the network.