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Fighting for the Target Demo

Cableworld listens in as Larry Kasanoff and his Blackbelt TV team bat around kick-ass tag lines.

Several entertainment executives sat at a table in Santa Monica, Calf, late last month to engage in a heated debate about how to best pitch their new start-up network, Blackbelt TV. They needed to decide, among other things, which catchy little phrase would become Blackbelt TV's tag line.

So how about The Kicks and Ass Channel? Or what about Kung Pow Television?

I giggled as I read the scores of tag lines the team had accumulated, Blackbelt TV executives invited me to their studios so I could better understand the struggles faced by an independent channel trying to break into a television universe controlled by the top media conglomerates.

Little did I know how altogether wacky some of these struggles would be. Some of those tag lines were ridiculous. How about Kung Fu – kin Good Television? Or We Know Trauma?

Admittedly, the executives knew how corny some of them were. But they had to find the best one to target the somewhat corny demographic that advertisers and, subsequently, cable operators drool over the 18-to-34-year-old male. Blackbelt TV seeks to cater to this elusive market by showing martial arts fights, movies and more 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The latest research was presented at the meeting, causing to smile Larry Kasanoff, Blackbelt TV's chairman, smiled as the report revealed that this treasured demo has been tuning in to martial arts. On one undisclosed network, martial arts movies scored 75% higher among the target demo than the average movie out of 1,500 samples. Not a bad statistic to show cable operators.

This data helped seal the deal for several of the company's sponsor advertisers, including Sony PlayStation, said Lisa Krugiov, Blackbelt TV's SVP of sales, via a speaker phone on the table.

Kasanoff's smile grew wider. Wearing a baseball cap over his dark curly hair, he suggested that Blackbelt TV's “fight jocks,” or sexy, skinny young women who introduce the programming segments on the network, could frink an undisclosed beverage as a way to secure an interested advertiser.

Product placement at work. Of course, Kasanoff heloed create these fight-jock personalities-all with tight stomachs and snappy names like Rockin' Robin and Tuff Trisha- to help lure male eyeballs.

While the research verified a young male's interest in Blackbelt TV, I thought I would take my own pathetically unofficial poll in the target age group. One, I was skeptical and, two, I also drool over this young male demographic.

First off, one 24-year-old man said the channel would fail, miserably. But another male, this one 30, said Blackbelt TV would be the one of the few channels he would watch if he owned a TV. Oren Geshuri, a Los Angeles resident, said he was the USA Channel's old series Kung Fu Theater burned into his psyche. “It is a whole different approach to action movies that American films, until recently, have never considered,” Geshuri said. “It's the poetry of the physical form rather than the machismo of the physical form.”

so maybe Kasanoff has a point. After all, he did produced Mortal Kombat, one of the most famous U.S. Martial arts films. Kasanoff also helped produce and market the 1991 block-bluster Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In fact, a leather jacket worn by the Terminator himself. Arnold Schwarzenegger, hung on the wall behind a glass case in the room in which we all sat.

the jacket serves as a good metaphor for Kasanoff's eye for marketing, which may help Blackbelt TV become a household name, at least among 18-to-34-year-old males. Remember, Teriminator 2 raked in hundreds of millions of dollars. The movie also helped produce, unofficially, California's latest governor by plastering the star's face all over the state.

So Kasanoff's eye for marketing may help Blackbelt TV get carriage deals with operators as well as attention from young men across the nation.

Kasanoff's favorite tag line, which won the final round among executives that day, had that exact goal in mind: “Blackbelt TV Kicks, Flicks and Chicks!”

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