Being dropped by the second biggest satellite TV operator in the U.S. (after DirecTV) is no laughing matter. Still, IFC is leveraging its award-winning original comedy series Portlandia also with its two new comedy series, Comedy Bang! Bang! and Bunk, to help convince viewers to lobby Dish Network to not drop the AMC Networks-owned channel as part of Dish's legal threat to drop IFC and its sister networks under the AMC Networks banner.
Visitors to IFC.com are greeted with a pop-up that reads: "DISH Customers - DISH is dropping IFC. If you are a DISH customer, you won't be able to watch our films and shows like Portlandia, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Bunk, and Whisker wars. Tell DISH to put IFC back on the air. Call toll free 855-8-KEEP-ON or go to KEEPIFC.com." Once they click through the "don't let IFC go black on DISH" pop-up and enter the site, visitors will see on of the banners above in rotation across the site.
If, however, they click through to KeepIFC.com to find out what all the fuss is about, they'll be redirected to KeepAMCNetworks.com, and discover that it's not just IFC but also Sundance Channel, AMC (home to Mad Men and Breaking Bad), and the female-skewing WE TV. Once there, they can click on "get the facts" to learn more about the background to the legal spat, which stems from a prior lawsuit between Dish and AMC Network's now defunct VOOM HD Networks, a high-definition suite of channels that existed back when AMC Networks was known as Rainbow Media and HD TV sets weren't as ubiquitous as they are today.
The massive buzz around the just-ended fifth season of Mad Men also prompted AMC Networks to advertise off its own TV and web channels, including running ads featuring Jon Hamm as Mad Men's Don Draper in the Wall Street Journal. As the Chicago Tribune notes, the "Dish and AMC Networks jousting is heating up as the June 30 contract expiration approaches. Dish already dropped AMC Networks' Sundance Channel on May 20."
As for AMC's smaller sibling IFC, it's not exactly the way it had hoped to leverage its increasing clout as a comedy programmer — as a bargaining chip to get viewers to help persuade Charlie Ergen's satellite TV business not to drop the cable network and its siblings. The plan was — and still is — to help drive awareness and tune-in to IFC, which recently saw its president, Evan Shapiro, quit to take a job with Participant Media, and is loooking to create some buzz while the Peabody-winning Portlandia is between seasons (new episodes start in July).
Calling it a full hour of “slightly off” original comedies, Blake Callaway, IFC’s SVP of marketing said, “Around ‘Comedy Bang! Bang!, we’ve created an extended relationship with over 20 comedy podcasts to not only advocate for our show, but also promote a platform where smart, sharp comedy is thriving.”
Comedy Bang! Bang!, hosted by Scott Aukerman (co-creator/director/producer, Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis) and a musical partner in crime in Reggie Watts (Conan), marries character cameos, sketches, and comedic absurdity with Hollywood stars including Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, Seth Rogen, and Elizabeth Banks.
The comedy podcasts from the Earwolf, Nerdist and Maximum Fun podcast families, including Who Charted, The Indoor Kids, Ronna and Beverly, and Marc Maron’s WTF, will air with highlights on an aggregated podcast page on AVClub.com, branded as “IFC PODMASS CENTRAL."
IFC is creating a dedicated podcast page on IFC.com so users can download and stream full episodes and clips including: Comedy Bang! Bang!, Sklarbro Country, improv4humans, Who Charted, Professor Blastoff, Nerdist, WTF with Marc Maron, Judge John Hodgman, The Todd Glass Show and Bullseye.
An outdoor billboard campaign will highlight celebrity guest stars (and some fakes guests as well) featured in the show, with the billboards designed to emulate theater marquees, updated weekly.
Text-based ads, “Bang Bangs,” conversations between Aukerman and the show’s one-man bandleader, Reggie Watts, will be used in subway ads and postings in NYC.
Universal is the presenting sponsor of the Comedy Bang! Bang! premiere promoting the studio’s upcoming comedy TED, from director Seth MacFarlane and starring Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis and MacFarlane (in theaters June 29).
Bunk, hosted by Kurt Braunohler, is a new breed of “comedy game show” in which a trio of comedians compete in a series of bizarre challenges to win "non-charitable causes" such as the ability to travel back in time, having a priest supply an alibi, and trading lives with a baby.
“For ‘Bunk,’ we tapped into the insights of seniors for their expert opinion on game shows. And, since ‘Bunk’ riffs on the traditional game show to create a new type of comedy series, their opinions helped us market to a new generation. We think fans of our brand of comedy will appreciate both,” said Callaway.
As seniors are among the biggest fans and largest audience for game shows, Fallon Minneapolis, IFC’s partner on the campaigns, arranged Bunk test screenings with seniors (employees’ actual grandparents and great-grandparents) to gauge their reaction as seen in this video.
Burger King is the debut episode of Bunk, promoting their new line of real fruit smoothies and frappés. IFC is also in partnership with Virgin America who just launched new service to Portland, Oregon (PDX), the 18th city in its network, with two daily nonstop flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and two daily nonstop flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
A promotion based on IFC’s hit show "Portlandia," held at an aircraft hangar just off the PDX runway invited guests on the inaugural flight to an “Arts & Aircrafts” Facebook competition, uploading their favorite photos to "put a bird on it" to score a discount off Virgin America's new PDX flights, and top voted photo winners jammed with DJs AndrewAndrew in interactive iPad DJ sessions.
Later this summer, IFC and Virgin America will offer guests the chance to win a walk-on role in season three of the hit series. Whether its parent company will have resolved its programming spat with Dish Network by then is still up in the air.