Who is more powerful, Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie" or Samantha from "Bewitched"?

Can anyone among us honestly say that in the stillness of night, when the monkey voice of day-to-day cares has been stilled, that he or she hasn't whispered this question in the dark?

Well, maybe someone can. But then, that person probably hasn't fallen under the spell of TV Land.

A few years ago, if anyone had suggested you could build a successful cable television network that airs nothing but moldy 25-year-old reruns, most TV executives would have laughed themselves purple. But nobody's laughing at TV Land, except maybe the canned studio audience.

Perhaps better than any other new programmer on television, TV Land illustrates the power of marketing and promotion. Through an extensive advertising campaign, clever on-air promotions and contests (thousands of people called the network to settle the Jeannie vs. Samantha debate as part of a network promotion), and a well thought-out branding effort, network owner Viacom International Inc. has managed to build a viable audience for a cable network running programs that cost next to nothing.

"Why is that network perceived by the public as cool? It's not because of the programming, it's because of the promotions," says James Chabin, president and chief executive of PROMAX International, a Century City trade association for marketing and promotions professionals in electronic media.

Chabin has headed PROMAX since 1992, but never before have the members of his organization wielded the kind of clout in the industry that they do today.

The TV and radio audience, as most people know by now, is fragmenting. On television, what was once a competition between three big networks and a few program syndicators is now a war between six broadcast and several dozen cable networks. Meanwhile, the Internet is also taking a bite out of the home entertainment audience.

That means getting attention is more difficult and more critical than it used to be. The result is that the marketing departments at TV stations and networks have become nearly as important as the content and distribution departments.

"Twenty years ago, the promotions director was in charge of client parties, or making sure the sweatshirts got out with the CBS eye on them," Chabin says. "Now, they're seen as critical."

Compensation paid to TV marketing mavens is matching their newfound clout. Marketing department heads of television stations in the L.A. market have seen their salaries double in the past five years, according to a report from Century City executive search firm Brad Marks International.


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