ReelzChannel Going Big to Promote ‘The Kennedys’

The Kennedys, a miniseries about the family that gave the U.S. a president, an attorney general, a senator and too many other elected officials to name, proved too radioactive for the History Channel, which dumped it earlier this year. Then a succession of other networks passed on it.

But Stan Hubbard, CEO of struggling cable network ReelzChannel, was willing to bet big on the eight-part drama, which stars Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes. Now, he needs a big payoff, so he’s turned to a larger-than-life marketing campaign in an effort to generate buzz for the April 3 premiere.

“We need tune-in,” Hubbard told Adweek. “We’re a relatively new network and we’re introducing our network to a lot of people with this movie. We need to make it easy for them to find us,” he added.

The campaign, which includes outdoor in six markets, ads on cable TV on two dozen networks, radio, cinema advertising, and the Web, is designed to reach as many as 1.8 billion impressions over 35 days. That’s a huge financial media commitment for a new cable network, even one like ReelzChannel, which is owned by Hubbard Broadcasting.

“What we spent out of pocket will add more than 50 percent to the planned expense budget for this year,” Hubbard said.

The outdoor campaign, a key component for any big movie release, is set to launch March 7, then roll out in waves on March 14 and 21. Working directly with CBS Outdoor, The Kennedys will be displayed on billboards and transit locations in the New York City metropolitan area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Minneapolis, where Hubbard is headquartered. In addition to the billboards—22 of them—The Kennedys campaign will be posted in the New York City subway, on bus exteriors and New Jersey Metro, as well as on 115 bus shelters in Los Angeles, for a total of 797 faces in the six markets.

Cinema ads are already running in some theaters. The TV ads launch Sunday, March 13. Radio tune-in ads—including some on Hubbard-owned stations—kick-in the week leading up to the airdate. ReelzChannel is offering clips on its Web site. There’s also an iPad app in the works.

It all came together in record time. “We had 10 days to make the decision to carry The Kennedys, and [that] left us only seven weeks to implement the campaign,” Hubbard said.

Even before the campaign gets underway and the movie airs, Hubbard said the PR buzz gained from picking up the controversial mini-series has been invaluable, helping the cable network get attention from advertisers that used to consider ReelzChannel an afterthought.

“We’re getting unbelievably good upfront meetings because of this,” Hubbard said. “This will prove to be a transformational event for ReelzChannel.”