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TBS Uses Enhanced Television to Continue Rebranding Push

TBS Superstation later this summer will add enhanced television capabilities to two of its programs, continuing an effort that began in May to shift its key demographic from baby boomers to “the TV haven for the regular guy.”

Beginning Aug. 2 and continuing every Wednesday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., viewers of the network's “Ripley's Believe It or Not” and “WCW Thunder” programs will be able to chat with other viewers and get information on the show they're watching at www.superstation.com.

“We found that the profile of our Internet users tends to be more heavily male, somewhat younger and somewhat more affluent than the networks,” said Constance Barkley-Lewis, senior vice president of marketing at TBS Superstation, Atlanta.

At first, the station thought a tie-in with the Web might decrease viewership. It ultimately decided, however, that combining Web and TV broadcasts would actually enhance programming and increase viewership.

“Then you can capture not only your core television audience, but viewers who might not be regular TBS viewers but who will come because of this new way of watching your product,” Barkley-Lewis said.

TBS is working with ACTV, New York, which provides site visitors with a HyperTV player that enables viewers to display four windows — a chat room, an ad and two content windows. Downloading the player takes just seconds, according to ACTV.

Through some questions prior to the download and through surveys that pop up during the broadcast, HyperTV gives TBS targeted information on viewers. Furthermore, the player establishes a direct connection between the viewer's browser and the ACTV server, where ACTV can track every click initiated by a viewer.

“This allows us to provide some very precise audience measures to TBS and provide a very concise convergent viewer profile. The data management service is part of the bundle they are buying from us,” said Bruce Crowley, president of ACTV's HyperTV Network.

The content window consists of additional information, such as background on a wrestling character in the ring during “WCW Thunder” or an update to a segment on “Ripley's Believe It or Not,” that the shows’ producers didn't have the time or inclination to add to the television program, Barkley-Lewis said.

“The advertisers love the ads because it gives consumers the opportunity to learn more about their product than a 30-second commercial can,” Barkley-Lewis said. “It really does extend the time that the viewers stay on the network because they are much more engaged in the product.”

Adding to online promotion during broadcasts, permission-based e-mails will be sent to remind viewers of the enhancement and the shows.

TBS first tested HyperTV last October for a James Bond movie marathon called “Cyber Bond.” It drew more than 2 million page views over a 15-day period, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year's “Cyber Bond,” which did not use HyperTV. “Cyber Bond” also resulted in an average visit of more than an hour to the TBS site, a number that is expected to be eclipsed by the Wednesday night enhanced TV broadcasts, Crowley said.

Richard Turner, director of online marketing at TBS, said the page views were higher for the second week than they were for the first week, which indicated higher awareness as the event continued. He added that page views went up when the TV audience was larger and went down when it was smaller.

Crowley said the biggest lesson learned from the “Cyber Bond” marathon was that the chat portion is the backbone of the enhancement.

“The chat is vital,” Crowley said. “During ‘Bond’ we felt that was what really kept people in, they came back night after night. We can aggregate all the chatters related to the fanatic elements of their favorite shows. Just the chat alone is enough, but we add additional elements that make for a better art form, and a better audience for TBS and their advertisers. The whole direct marketing model that marrying the Web and the television facilitates is to the benefit of TV.”

TBS will brand the night as “I Watch Wednesday” and will promote it through other online and offline Turner entities, as well as place banners on other entertainment sites. During the shows, a call-to-action directing viewers to the site will regularly replace the constant TBS logo. This practice resulted in an even greater hit rate during the “Cyber Bond” trial than when the station aired a 30-second promo, said Barkley-Lewis.

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