Sega Channel, a premium pay-TV service that made its debut in Pittsburgh in December, rolls into 15 additional markets this month. A joint venture of Sega of America, Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner, the channel gives the videogame marketer a leg up on rivals such as Nintendo.
Although Sega appeals to adults and children, the rollout was backed by TV ads directed at children under 17. Griffin Bacal, New York, created spots themed "Stop just watching TV" that appeared in a two-week teaser blitz on MTV and Nickelodeon.
Prints ads, which also target kids 17 and under, break in February issues of videogame publications such as GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ads include an 800-number hot line for consumer information.
So far, Sega's plans don't include advertiser backing.
Viewers who subscribe to Sega Channel must have some model Sega Genesis machine, appropriate cable connectors and an adapter cartridge that permits users to download games.
Games will vary month to month and include popular Sega Genesis titles currently available on retailer's shelves, such as Mortal Kombat and Sonic the Hedgehog, as well as promotion efforts with outside game publishers such as Shiny Entertainment.
"The idea is to give the channel a club atmosphere," explains Jennifer Moffie, Sega Channel's manager of corporate communications. "We want kids to have something special they can't get anywhere else."
Monthly fees for the pay-per-view service, which vary by market, run from $12 to $20. Subscribers receive up to 50 games; sneak, interactive previews of soon-to-be-released titles; game tips, news, contests; and promotions and special titles created solely for Sega Channel.
But is Sega Channel a parent's worst nightmare? Not according to the channel's consumer marketing consultant, Beth Lenahan
"Most parents see this as an appealing alternative to renting games," Ms. Lenahan says, and it's a cost-efficient alternative when considering a Sega Genesis cartridge sells from $50-$60 and up to $3.95 to rent. If parents rent three videogames on a Friday night and end up with late charges, she points out, they've already reached the suggested monthly premium in one weekend.