RIVALS BATTLE FOR PHARMACY TV NETWORK TURF

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If two fledgling TV networks have their way, the time spent waiting for a prescription will offer a new advertising opportunity.

Retail Media Systems and Superior Broadcasting Corp. have launched competing in-pharmacy networks -- PharmaSee TV and RxTV, respectively -- where consumers can watch health-oriented programming, sprinkled with ads, as they wait for the pharmacist to fill their prescriptions.

Although both started up in August, PharmaSee TV is well ahead of its competitor -- in some 700 independent pharmacies, while RxTV is operating a pilot program in 16 stores .

Both hope to be in well over a thousand stores by 2001. Retail Media says it's aiming for 7,000 by then.

Retail Media, which is mulling a public stock offering, has experience with these types of networks, having launched similar ones in Advance Auto Parts stores and Planet Hollywood restaurants. For PharmaSee TV, it installs the monitors and satellite dishes in pharmacies free, then charges stores $25 a month as a programming fee.

The network has a 2-hour programming wheel, including 22 minutes of ads an hour, that runs repeatedly for 10 hours a day.

PharmaSee TV direct-to-consumer advertisers include Schering-Plough Corp.'s Claritin and AstraZeneca's Prilosec and Nolvadex.

A CALL TO ACTION

Ad prices are negotiable, but it would cost approximately $250,000 to run a 30-second spot every half hour during the second quarter of 2000.

Over-the-counter brands also advertise on the network.

"It's an instant call to action," said Jason Kates, Retail Media president-CEO, said. "You might ask your pharmacist [immediately] for more information."

Tony Saldi Jr., RxTV's VP-business development, said the genesis for that network came in part from a study done by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. It showed some 50% of people surveyed didn't buy so-called "front-end" merchandise while waiting for a prescription, he said.

Ads on RxTV are intended to capture the attention of impatient consumers, prompting them to shop for another product while waiting.

"You're looking for an awareness campaign at the point of purchase," he said.

The two networks' programming differs. PharmaSee TV uses programming from established cable networks such as CNN, E! and Ovation, as well as segments it custom produces for advertisers. RxTV's programming is mostly ads with health tips interspersed on topics such as lowering cholesterol and seat-belt safety for children.

PARTNERSHIPS

Unlike PharmaSee TV, which owns and sells all the ad time for its network, RxTV is exploring partnerships with the stores, where they may be able to use some of the ad time to back their own private-label brands.

RxTV's advertisers in its pilot program include DTC advertisers Pfizer and Warner-Lambert Co.'s jointly marketed cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac. OTC brands include Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol and Coca-

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