FOX TAPS KOVEL/FULLER TO BACK HEALTH-RELATED CABLE NET, WEB SITE: ENTRY WILL REACH UP TO 20 MILLION HOMES THIS FALL

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Fox this week will unveil an ambitious health venture that includes a cable TV network and Web site.

The News Corp. unit has tapped Kovel/Fuller, Los Angeles, as agency of record for the venture, which expects to spend $10 million to $20 million on advertising.

The launch of the venture follows the merger in March of Fox's Fit TV and America's Health Network. The combined cable network, managed by Fox Liberty Ventures, will reach 18 million to 20 million viewers when it is introduced this fall.

REAL-TIME CHATS, ADVICE

Programming on the network will be integrated with a new Web site. Viewers will be able to chat in real time through the Web with guests on the TV shows. The site will also feature advice from medical professionals and access to various health-related databases.

Fox's health entry will compete with Discovery Communications' planned $350 million launch in August of its Discovery Health network. Industry experts expect pharmaceutical companies will continue to significantly boost advertising dollars as they market directly to consumers. Pharmaceutical DTC spending on TV alone totaled $600 million last year, up 33% from the previous year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Spending is expected to hit as much as $850 million in 1999, analysts said.

NO DTC INFOMERCIALS

John Hendricks, chairman-CEO of Discovery Communications, last week said the cable network will keep tight control of editorial content with pharmaceutical DTC promotions appearing mainly on its Web site.

Kovel is expected to introduce its first work, including TV spots and online ads, for the combined Fox network later this year. Kovel, with billings in the $65 million range, also counts software company PairGain Technologies, Jiffy Lube, Vista Optical, Yahoo! Internet Life and Playboy Enterprises as clients.

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