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Potato Spurs Interest in Broadband TV

Time Warner Inc.’s AOL and Warner Bros. units are running their first campaign to promote In2TV, a broadband television network offering free on-demand TV shows over the Internet.

An animated potato is the main creative hero. The point is simple: The regular “couch potato” watches TV from the sofa, while this animated potato sees In2TV through a wireless notebook computer.

The campaign includes an online sweepstakes and a billboard each in New York and Los Angeles. The tag line, which emphasizes this new ability to watch select Time Warner TV shows, is “Online. Anytime. Always Free.”

In2TV is available only on the site at http://www.aol.com/in2tv. Visitors can watch archived episodes from Warner Bros. shows like “Sisters,” “Lois & Clark,” “Chico & The Man” and “Growing Pains.” There are interactive features and viral videos, too.

Hill Holliday New York handled the campaign’s creative elements. Initiative bought the outdoor media.

The Reuters billboard in New York’s Times Square shows clips from programs running on In2TV, along with the animated potato holding a laptop that asks, “Are You In2TV?” The other billboard, on the Sunset and Doheny wall in Los Angeles, shows an ad headlined “Patio Potato.” The potato is shown sitting poolside watching In2TV on its laptop computer.

“We think this is a very catchy, fun creative campaign, so we wanted to put the potato in high-profile places,” said Lisa Judsen, senior vice president of audience marketing at AOL.

The animated potato also plays an enterprising role in the sweepstakes. The In2TV Watch to Win Game invites consumers to watch a clip from a program in the online network’s lineup and then answer a trivia question. Each play shows the animated potato walking across the screen and holding up the laptop where the video and questions appear.

This monthlong sweepstakes ending in May is being promoted across the AOL network. There are about 6,000 prizes, including the top awards of a WinBook Jiiv Mini PC and a WinBook T230 laptop. CBS radio stations in 10 markets will promote the sweepstakes.

Broadband’s growing penetration has helped accelerate the online TV network trend. Even major broadcasters like ABC, CBS and NBC are running their on-air programs on their sites.

NBC, for instance, runs its “Meet the Press” Sunday talk show soon after its on-air broadcast. Even the morning prime time “Today” show recently debuted online. ABC will run some of its regular shows online, including commercials that ran on air. And CBS has its evening anchors do a special Webcast of their news show before the on-air edition. The networks’ content is free online as it is on air.

The opportunity for a media and entertainment giant like Time Warner is to leverage its vast inventory of electronic content online to a larger audience.

“From Warner Bros.’ perspective, In2TV furthers the life of their very popular hit television shows into this new medium and to make sure those shows are available online,” Ms. Judsen said. “For AOL, this is a very attractive proposition. We’re looking to build behavior of viewing video online by having popular television shows that appeal to a very wide demographic and with a built-in audience.”

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