TNT FIELDS A NEW STRATEGY IN AD PUSH FOR ITS NFL GAMES: CABLE NETWORK SEES SOMETHING SPECIAL IN SUNDAY NIGHT TIME SLOT

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Turner Network Television next week launches the campaign backing its eighth season of National Football League telecasts, emphasizing the games' Sunday night time slot and "star quality."

The advertising, valued at an estimated $10 million, will run on all Turner Broadcasting System cable networks. It plays up the difference between the TNT Sunday night games and the Sunday afternoon fare on Fox and NBC.

TNT COULD USE A LIFT

TNT could use any lift the advertising can provide. Ratings for its NFL telecasts have been dropping in recent years, from an 8.8 in '94 to an 8.1 in '95 and a 7.3 in '96.

TNT has even altered the title of its NFL programming, and the tagline on its related marketing, from "NFL on TNT" to "Sunday Night NFL on TNT."

Last year's NFL commercials, which made film actor Brad Sullivan TNT's on-air spokesman for the games, were more focused on keeping the message consistent with the network's "best movie studio on television" positioning.

"This year, we really tried to get into the players' heads and communicate what it feels like to play on Sunday nights," said Andrea Taylor, TNT senior VP-creative services.

TNT learned through player interviews that they approach playing in prime time, on Sunday nights, differently than the usual Sunday afternoons, televised regionally by Fox and NBC, Ms. Taylor said.

"Something about playing at night .*.*. there's more of a star quality feel there, like a rock concert," she said.

PLAYERS FEATURED

The TV spots, created in-house, will feature a variety of NFL stars, including the Dallas Cowboys' Emmitt Smith and the New England Patriots' Drew Bledsoe, preparing for a Sunday night matchup. Rock legend Robbie Robertson, off-screen, provides the voice for each player's interior monologue.

The print and outdoor components of the campaign, breaking in mid-July, are being handled by Seiniger Advertising Group, Beverly Hills, Calif., and follow TNT's creative direction.

This year's ads will feature little copy and dramatically lit photographs of NFL players taken by noted sports photojournalist Walter Iooss Jr.

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