WorldLink to sell ads on Fox

'Weekend Marketplace' block to air Saturdays

Fox has tapped advertising sales firm WorldLink to handle its new Saturday morning infomercial block.

The two-hour slot, dubbed “Weekend Marketplace,” bows Jan. 3. WorldLink will coordinate all infomercial and direct response sales for the block.

WorldLink is still lining up its first round of clients, which will mostly come from the usual stable of infomercial advertisers familiar to viewers of early morning TV.

But given the unprecedented platform — “Weekend Marketplace” reps the first time a broadcast network has ceded a wholesale block of time for infomercials — WorldLink CEO Toni Knight hopes to eventually target advertisers who aren’t traditionally in the infomercial game.

“Our goal is to attract quality advertisers and open this up to branded entertainment,” Knight said. “We’re already talking to agencies and advertisers, and there’s tremendous interest in reaching such mass distribution. But in the very beginning we’re working with established clients that have run paid programming in the past.”

WorldLink’s relationship with News Corp. goes back more than a decade; the company also handles infomercial blocks for the conglom’s cablers, including its regional sports channels.

Fox opted to go the infomercial route after resolving a legal spat with children’s programmer 4KidsTV, which had operated Fox’s four-hour Saturday block as a time buy. As part of the dissolution of the 4KidsTV deal, Fox gave two hours back to affils and decided to program the other two hours with infomercials (Daily Variety, Nov. 24).

Although Knight is married to Fox Networks Group chairman-CEO Tony Vinciquerra, her relationship with the company goes back to 1997, significantly pre-dating even her relationship with Vinciquerra.

Fox’s exec VP of network distribution, Jon Hookstratten, handled the deal.

“We have partnered (with WorldLink) through various divisions of the company on longform sales efforts since 1997,” Hookstratten said. “They are the acknowledged leader in direct response programming, and their expertise will benefit us as we move forward on this new initiative.”

Knight said it’s hard to say whether other networks will follow in Fox’s footsteps and turn programming over to infomercials. But she noted that the soft economy has “forced people to get creative.” Her many media clients, she said, “all strategizing to come up with new ways of thinking.”

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