Access Inks Best Buy as Program Sponsor

Access Television Network, a provider of paid programming to local cable systems that is based in Irvine, CA, reached an agreement this month with retailer Best Buy Co. Inc. to air music video programs intended to drive retail sales.

Access plans to reach 6 million homes with the May 1 launch of its Access Entertainment Network, an entire cable channel of paid programming produced by the music industry. Access is in the process of signing labels — including A&M Records, Elektra Records, TVT Records and Virgin Records — that seek a promotional outlet for their artists.

“As much as 70 percent of all music video programming that's produced does not ever reach the consumer through any of the conventional music-based networks,” said Rick Gibson, senior vice president of advertising sales at Access, referring to MTV Music Television and VH1. “Through these partnerships with the record labels and retailers, we are providing another service to their marketing ends.”

The programming is expected to consist of music videos, interviews with recording artists and concert footage — all with a promotional tie-in to a local retailer. Best Buy is scheduled to have three half hour programs, distributed at equal intervals throughout a 24-hour day. The company did not return phone calls for comment.

The programs will be divided into separate genres to target the musical tastes of people in the 18 to 49 year-old age group. Unlike MTV's standard practice of displaying the name of the artist at the beginning and end of each video, Access will continually display these names to make it easier for consumers to identify music they may want to purchase.

A transactional element is considered secondary to driving retail sales, but the programs may feature Web site addresses or toll free numbers for a retailer.

Gibson said that while the music industry recognizes the power of DRTV offers in driving retail sales, it is still the retailer purchasing the media who decides if its paid programs include transactional elements.

“Positionally, there are transactional elements included,” Gibson said. “However, the primary goal is to expose artists that are not getting exposure, entertain the consumer and drive retail sales.”

Of the 6 million homes Access would reach, 4 million air its programming 24 hours a day. The network is aiming to reach 80 percent of the top 40 DMA's.

Preparing for Launch

Record labels preparing to air on Access say that program plans are in a preliminary stage.

“We're sort of thinking about what is the best buy to highlight the artist,” said Laura Grover, director of marketing at A&M Records. “I'm sure some of it might come from behind the scenes footage or interview footage.”

She said her company is considering promoting an up-and-coming artist named Johnny Lang, a 17 year-old rocker who opened several recent concerts for The Rolling Stones and scored a platinum record.

She sees the network as a way of promoting new artists that do not receive radio or video play.

“They [Access] have a lot of enthusiasm behind making it an alternative vehicle to promote artists and their material,” Grover said. “I think we'd love to have another forum.”

Movies and Videos

Access has plans for later this year to expand its paid programming into other entertainment media, including film and video. Last year, the company unveiled paid programming for magazine publishers which sought to sell subscriptions through a system that Access dubbed as “video direct mail.”

Gibson said that magazines would comprise between 5 percent and 10 percent of its total programming, which will be dominated by the music category. He foresees a future when film studios and theaters promote new releases in paid programs that consist of movie footage.

Access's on-air appearance is being designed by Jill Taffet of Taffet Design, a recent Emmy recipient who worked on MSNBC and E! Entertainment Televisions.

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