GSN Wins With TV-Web Integration

Game Show Network, now called GSN, is the nation’s only television network dedicated to game-related programming and interactive game playing. GSN enables viewers to win prizes by playing along with GSN's televised games via gsn.com -- and the 54 million cable and satellite homes that watch GSN prove to be loyal and responsive customers.

Remarkably, in just one year, the number of iTV users registering as GSN interactive players has increased from 6,000 to over 1 million. Previously known for attracting older viewers with its 1970s game show repeats, the network’s new name, look, content, and rewards are quickly gaining younger audiences.

Though for the past two years Rich Cronin, president and CEO, has made tremendous progress both in expanding GSN’s ad revenue and securing a leading interactivity position, the most substantial revitalization is happening right now.

The network’s new branding launches with five new primetime series at 10 p.m. March, with additional product launches in the summer and the fall. Among its original new series are the network's first original casino game series, “World Series of Blackjack;” its first relationship game, “Fake-A-Date,” hosted by "Joe Millionaire's" Evan Marriott; and reality comedy series “Kenny vs. Spenny,” featuring two friends who compete against one another in silly games of physical endurance and mental toughness. GSN also will debut an original 2-hour documentary titled “Video Game Invasion: The History of a Global Obsession” on Sunday, March 21.

On the creative side, GSN’s look is bolder and more stylized, represented by a logo living in a multifaceted game box that flips, spins and unfolds to reveal program previews and tune-in information. Fast-paced graphic animation and sound prove the network's passion for gaming.

iMedia asked Dena Kaplan, GSN’s senior vice president of marketing, to describe the strategy behind the re-brand and how integrated marketing plays a role in the network’s success. Having worked for the network since 1996, she offers a unique perspective on, and forecast for, its transition.

iMedia Connection: What stimulated the re-branding campaign?

Kaplan: The idea for a re-brand has been gestating for a while. We’ve been doing a considerable amount of research, talking to viewers to understand their interest, and measuring various opportunities. In order for GSN to be known as the network for games, not just for game shows, we felt a bold new approach was necessary. We couldn’t simply redesign our look without reviving our product. The new brand package will appeal to the player in all of us.

iMedia Connection: What do you hope to accomplish with the re-brand?

Kaplan: We have taken steps to make our brand more evolutionary and inclusive of what we see our network becoming. We want to broaden our content and at the same time reach a younger audience. The opportunity is for what GSN is to gaming to become what MTV is to music. The new reality series, prank shows and a block of programs devoted to video games will all certainly help us skew towards a younger demographic. Not only do we hope to acquire new customers, we also think the new loyalty programs we are putting in place will strengthen our existing customer relationships.

iMedia Connection: GSN's new lineup will include less-traditional game shows. Does that mean you will be using less-traditional marketing tactics?

Kaplan: Yes and no. We are using a multi-platform national consumer brand and tune-in advertising and promotional campaign. In trying to cast our net as wide as we can, we will continue to run our traditional advertising campaigns, like cross-channel TV spots that lend themselves to streaming online. But we will also be implementing online marketing with viral elements. In particular, the top two products we will push in the online medium are “Kenny vs. Spenny” and the “World Series of Blackjack.” After conducting extensive research on the blackjack game and finding it has a huge online presence, we contacted hundreds of blackjack sites. We’re looking forward to tapping their fan bases.

iMedia Connection: What are the most challenging issues you face?

Kaplan: Where GSN is distributed is pretty much intuitive, but the message is not. The hardest aspect is making sure that we have outstanding creative that breaks through the clutter in today’s crowded entertainment marketplace. We strive to have creative that is on-brand and informative. You can see how our re-packaging is bolder and more contemporary.

iMedia Connection: What do you foresee changing in GSN’s integrated marketing?

Kaplan: Our media mix will certainly change over time and our growth effort will be gradual, extending out over the course of 2004. We don't just consider the TV, but the Web, portable devices, cell phones and ultimately voice activation. GSN will unveil real-time sync-to-broadcast interactive play-along components for each of the new series.

Also, we are considering offering Webcams to our users to stimulate interactivity. Our database of game registrants is quickly growing, so we will use it to consistently communicate with customers. We have found that online players are younger and more active. They tend to be more willing to interact with our brand, such as answering surveys.

iMedia Connection: How significant is loyalty in your marketing efforts?

Kaplan: To reward our active player and viewer base, we are putting in place a loyalty club to integrate TV and online. We need to make sure we reach our consistently loyal viewers, since 50 percent of our overall lineup remains off-network shows like “Family Feud” and “Match Game”.

iMedia Connection: Is there any knowledge you can impart to traditional advertisers that may be hesitant to be aggressive in the online space?

Kaplan: The online medium is here to stay. It is responsive and has to be part of the mix for any modern marketer. It has been integral to GSN’s business and will continue to be.

 

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