SCI-FI CHANNEL EXPLORES NEW BRANDING DOMAINS;FROM THE WEB TO COMIC BOOKS AND THEME PARKS, USA NETWORKS BUILDS AVENUES FOR CABLE OUTLET

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A Sci-Fi Channel comic book, a presence in an upcoming sci-fi store in the Las Vegas Hilton and live Sci-Fi Channel feeds on the Internet are just a few of the ways USA Networks is expanding its brand identity under a new division, USA Enterprises.

On the drawing board are plans to exploit the Sci-Fi Channel brand in venues at various theme parks run separately by the owners of USA Networks, Viacom and MCA.

Ellen Kaye, VP-advertising and promotion for USA Networks, has been named VP of USA Enterprises. Ms. Kaye also confirmed the new division will be charged with extending the brand identity of its flagship cable TV network, USA Network.

"It's a recognition, internally and by our parent companies, that we need to devote resources to ancillary businesses full time," Ms. Kaye said.

Joining Forces

USA Networks Chairman-CEO Kay Koplovitz said the formation of the unit is a way to consolidate all of the nascent start-ups USA has been operating.

"We've been doing a lot of things, but we haven't been doing the `announcement-a-day' about them," Ms. Koplovitz said.

Ms. Kaye said she's particularly excited by two projects she plans to start right away: Entry into the home video market with a Sci-Fi Channel label; and a Sci-Fi Channel merchandise catalog.

USA Enterprises will focus on three areas: consumer products and promotions, and new media.

On the consumer product front, books will be published under the Sci-Fi Channel brand name, and Ms. Kaye will investigate starting branded shops in malls. In addition, the channel's presence in MCA's Spencer Gift stores-under the Sci-Fi Trader banner-will expand to an additional 50 stores from the current 40. Sci-Fi magazine, available domestically and distributed in the U.K., will expand its international distribution, Ms. Koplovitz said.

For Web Heads

In the new media arena, Sci-Fi is on the Web in an area called the Dominion (http://www.scifi.com). Later this year USA Enterprises will start to use third party measurement of the site-via Nielsen Media Research and I/PRO-to enhance ad sales opportunities.

In March, Sci-Fi will add a new feature: users will be able to click on a Sci-Fi icon and watch the Sci-Fi Channel, live, for up to 2 minutes. The network is using CU-See Me technology for the feed. Right now, users can only grab a single frame of the channel on the Web.

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