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Posted at 6:19 PM ET, 12/ 1/2010

Animal Planet's You Watch, We Give campaign: the perfect ratings booster

By Lisa de Moraes

Thanks to viewers, Animal Planet donated $50,000 to a Los Angeles animal rescue after an episode of "Pit Bulls & Parolees."

Marketing smarties at Animal Planet have come up with the Practically Perfect Viewer Magnet.

It's called: You Watch, We Give.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Animal Planet promised to donate 10 cents per viewer, up to $50,000, for the Saturday, Nov. 27 episode of its series "Pit Bulls & Parolees." The show, now in its second season, follows Tia Torres, the founder and director of the Los Angeles area's Villalobos Rescue Center for unwanted pit bulls that's run by parolees.

The Silver Spring-based network promoted the stunt on its own air, and also got out the word via Facebook and Twitter.

Come 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, about 1 million people watched the show. That's 54 percent more people than the show has averaged this season to date which is an impressive accomplishment on a holiday weekend, when the number of Homes Using Television - or HUT level, as it's called in the biz -- tends to do a swan dive.

It's also 60 percent better than Animal Planet averaged the Saturday night after last year's Thanksgiving.

"These were amazing numbers for us on Thanksgiving weekend," Animal Planet president and general manager Marjorie Kaplan told the TV Column.

Having hit the cap, Animal Planet is donating $50,000 to Villalobos Rescue Center, which is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. That would, according to the animal rescue's web site, cover about three months' operating expenses. For Animal Planet, however, it's chump change compared to the cost of a more conventional marketing drive.

"It's a contribution to her business that is meaningful and we get far more than $50,000 worth of value [because] we're not running a major off-air marketing campaign to drive audience to the show," Kaplan explained.

"Everybody feels good about it, including the audience."

As marketing campaigns go, this one is kinda genius. Imagine if Fox had offered to hand over a few thou to a nonprofit working to save the Amazon rain forest if people would only watch its new comedy "Running Wilde," in which Keri Russell played a do-gooder trying to do good deeds in the Amazone rain forest?

Instead, Fox has decided not to order the so-called "back nine" episodes on this latest Will Arnett series and it will end its short life ignominiously, all because the network's marketing people lacked the vision of the Animal Planet folks.

Heck, with enough nonprofits and not too much money in broadcast-TV terms, NBC might actually get people to watch its prime time lineup - even "Chuck."

By Lisa de Moraes  | December 1, 2010; 6:19 PM ET
Categories:  Local TV  
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