If the quirky thriller about a haunted hospital does well in the ratings, it could help boost the struggling network out of its doldrums and potentially come back as a regular series. If it doesn't catch on, the net will be faced with a 13-week nightmare. "They desperately need this to work," said Shari Anne Brill, VP-director of programming at Carat. "It's critical that we get people into that first night," said Mike Benson, ABC's senior VP-marketing, advertising and promotion of "Kingdom Hospital," which debuts with a two-hour premiere March 3.
ABC's campaign has high-visibility and guerrilla elements, including devoting the lion's share of promotion time during the Oscars to the miniseries; a "Blair Witch" style mockumentary; a tie-in novel; and a Times Square Jumbotron ad. If that plot sounds familiar, it's much like the network's promotion plan for an earlier King miniseries "Rose Red." Disney sibling Hyperion Books will put out a novel called "The Journals of Eleanor Druse" this month named after a character in the thriller. Online outreach includes e-mail games and other viral marketing aimed at sci-fi and horror fans.
The Stephen King imprint could attract non-ABC watchers, Ms. Brill said. "He creates destination TV," she said. "He has a built-in audience."