Fox to push Digital HD initiative via ESPN

Promo for 'Prometheus' will launch marketing campaign

Luring sports fans is the first objective in 20th Century Fox’s big marketing push for its new Digital HD initiative.

Ads for “Prometheus,” the first pic offered in the new earlier home entertainment window, will take over much of ESPN’s home page, mobile app and tablet Tuesday as the title becomes available for download — three weeks before it’s released on DVD and Blu-ray. Digital HD will make future Fox films available for download about two weeks before their homevid release; there are also 600 library titles.

Studio’s ballyhoo for Digital HD stands in contrast to the more tentative approaches previously adopted by Fox and other studios when carving out new release windows, a matter of controversy with exhibitors. Last year, there was virtually no promotion done for the experiments by Fox, Warner Bros., Sony and Universal on an early $30 VOD window through satcaster DirecTV for recent theatrical releases.

With Digital HD, Fox plans to splash ads touting the digital release of titles across major gaming and music sites including Pandora and IGN. Campaign marks the studio’s largest marketing initiative for digital content.

The Digital HD campaign is in keeping with Fox chairman Jim Gianopulos’ leadership on technology, anti-piracy and digital strategies. Last year, Fox was the first studio to make Oscar screeners available via free digital download on iTunes.

Fox is trying to cast a wide net by going outside the News Corp. empire to ESPN (although FoxSports.com will also feature a number of ad takeovers).ESPN’s desirable young male audience is an enthusiastic demo for digital downloads, especially via gaming consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox.

As part of the campaign, ESPN will feature a short HD video ad for “Prometheus” on its homepage. ESPN will also feature ads on its tablet homepage and its mobile app, ScoreCenter.

“This is a lot of firsts for us in terms of how we’re working with Fox and trying to leverage every screen from an HD standpoint,” said Eric Johnson, ESPN’s exec veep of multimedia sales.

“Prometheus” marks ESPN’s first HD video advertisement for a film, and the ad takes up more of the screen than any video campaign the company has done before. In fact, the whole idea is pretty new: ESPN ran its first HD video ad ever this past Saturday for HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”

Fox hopes the “Prometheus” campaign will eventually reach 100 million users through ESPN’s platforms.

“Our focus with the launch of Digital HD has been to target the millions of digital-savvy consumers through the destinations they visit often,” said Mary Daily, president and chief marketing officer of worldwide marketing for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

For the first week of the NFL season, the ESPN.com homepage averaged 6.8 million unique visitors across Sunday and Monday. The mobile Web homepage averaged 3.3 million unique visitors for the same period, while 4.7 million unique viewers used the ScoreCenter app.

Banking on the rapid growth of broadband, Fox will make digital versions of its films available in more than 50 countries through services including Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, PlayStation, Xbox and Best Buy’s CinemaNow. ESPN will provide links to download “Prometheus” on a variety of platforms through its homepage.