Trek Fan Relationships Guide UPN Series Promo Efforts

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Putting a new spin on customer relationship management, television network UPN is allowing feedback from fans of the Star Trek franchise to guide its marketing efforts.


Fan furor over a television promotion for the upcoming Star Trek series "Enterprise" recently led the network to change the advertisement in mid run.


The ad for the series -- slated to debut in the fall starring Scott Bakula as captain of the predecessor to the starship Enterprise -- ran during the final episode of "Star Trek: Voyager" on May 23. The ad copy mentioned several well-known characters from the franchise's storied history, including Kirk, Spock, Picard and Janeway.


But the ad failed to mention Sisko, a character from the Star Trek syndicated series "Deep Space Nine" who is played by Avery Brooks as captain of a frontier space station. Fans of the show, which ran from 1993 to 1999, felt snubbed, and they expressed their opinions on a Star Trek fan-forum message board, TrekBBS.com.


As it turned out, a UPN executive was watching.


The following week, Bob Bouknight, UPN's senior vice president for creative advertising, sent a message to TrekToday.com, a TrekBBS sister site featuring news and rumors about the franchise. Bouknight told TrekToday.com that he had heard the concerns of die-hard fans and would take action.


"Some of your members objected that Sisko should have been mentioned as well since he was a captain, but as another one of your members rightly guessed, the more well-known characters in the Star Trek saga were named," Bouknight said.


He added that the characters mentioned in the promo were picked because UPN marketers believed they were more recognizable to viewers and not "as a snub to DS9 or Avery Brooks."


On May 30, a new version of the "Enterprise" promo premiered -- this time with a mention of Sisko -- to the delight of fans, who praised Bouknight in follow-up messages on the forum.


In the spirit of maintaining personal contact with hard-core Star Trek fans, a group noted both for their fanaticism and for being hard to please, Bouknight is taking questions directly from viewers.


Fans can submit questions about UPN's marketing of the Star Trek franchise through a form on TrekToday.com. Bouknight will post responses depending on his availability, according to TrekToday.com.


"Obviously, this is a property that is very near and dear to the hearts of the fans," a UPN spokesman said. "We need to be respectful of how they feel. They let us know, and we responded."


While this is the first time online fan feedback has directly affected a UPN marketing campaign, it is not the first time fan crusades have changed network behavior. Fans have rescued the sci-fi show "Roswell" from oblivion twice.


The show, which debuted on the WB in 1999, was rumored to face cancellation after its first season. In response, fans sent bottles of hot sauce to the network -- the aliens featured on the show favor the condiment -- and convinced WB executives that "Roswell" was worth a second shot.


In its second season, "Roswell" faced cancellation again. This time fans sent hot sauce to UPN, believing that because the network had picked up another WB fan favorite, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," it was a logical choice to rescue "Roswell."


UPN picked up "Roswell" for another season in May. As a thank-you to UPN, fans have set up a page on the fan site Crashdown.com to encourage fellow fans to donate money to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation in the network's name.


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