Sundance Boosts Ad Revenue With Two New Sponsors

Sundance Channel is expanding the scope of its branded entertainment and sponsorship business, looking beyond luxury automotive and liquor dollars to the consumer packaged goods category. The Rainbow Media network signed Clorox’s Green Works and Brita brands as co-presenting sponsors of its newest original series, The Lazy Environmentalist, which leads off Sundance’s eco-friendly Tuesday program block, starting June 16.

In a tidy bit of synergy, series host Josh Dorfman is a spokesman for Brita’s FilterForGood campaign, which encourages consumers to reduce their plastic water-bottle use. “Partnering with The Lazy Environmentalist was a natural extension of our current work with Josh and involvement with the Sundance Film Festival,” said Scott Iason, group manager at Clorox.
“The series is a great platform to integrate our brands and show how small steps can make a
big impact on the environment.”

Each brand will be baked into one episode of The Lazy Environmentalist, with Green Works appearing in the premiere. The clients will also run in a series of one-minute “Lazy Greenover” vignettes, in which Dorfman uses Brita and Green Works products as a means to help viewers leave a lighter eco-footprint.

Sundance Channel first started selling integrated packages in 2007, landing Lexus and Smith Barney as prime-time sponsors for two years. Executives plan to sell smaller, more numerous increments. “We no longer want a presenting sponsor for the night,” said Kim Gabelmann, senior vp, branded entertainment and partnerships. “While those deals helped establish our sponsorship unit, those sort of entitlements can be limiting.” In the first quarter, Subaru came aboard as the exclusive sponsor of Eco Trip: The Real Cost of Living, a deal that “wouldn’t have been possible if Lexus owned the block,” she added.

In ’08 the channel brought in $5.5 million in “other” operating revenue, up 40 percent from $3.9 million in 2007, according to SNL Kagan. That’s a pittance compared to its affiliate revenue of $98.9 million (on a rate of 28 cents per sub), per Kagan.

This upfront marks the first for Sundance since Cablevision acquired it in May ’08, and the parent company is looking to increase both revenue sources. Aiming to hit 40 million subs this year, Gabelmann predicted: “We’re on the map, and we’re going to have a greater presence in the upfront than ever before.”