Alltel helps make 'Evil' votes count

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NEW YORK -- In its first sponsorship deal for text message voting, Comedy Central has partnered with Alltel Wireless to allow viewers to weigh in on pop culture icons featured in the network's new debate show, "Lewis Black's Root of All Evil," premiering March 12.

Alltel is sponsoring all eight episodes of the show, is running ads and will have its logo and animated phone graphic depicted in two in-show bumpers. Those will drive viewers to vote for the pop culture person or institution they think is more evil after it is debated by comedians on that night's episode.

Black -- the show's host and moderator, who also taped a voice-over for the bumpers -- will make his own ruling during the taped episode, but viewers' text message poll results will be displayed in real time at the end of the show. Debate topics include Oprah Winfrey vs. the Catholic Church, Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney and Donald Trump vs. Viagra.

"Launching a new show in today's TV environment is so incredibly competitive that the more the audience can have a personal stake in the series, the better," said David Sacks, the show's co-creator and co-executive producer. "The idea that viewers will have a chance to vote on which person or institution is more evil I think helps, and we're only able to do that because of the sponsor."

Sacks co-created and executive produces the show with Scott Carter, who was an exec producer on "Real Time With Bill Maher" and "Politically Incorrect."

Comedy Central said Alltel did not have to pay additional fees for the 15-second in-show bumpers and graphics, which were provided as added value for Alltel, a major advertiser on Comedy Central. "With the topic of the show being a debate, it's just a very natural fit for this mobile extension," said Brooke Hecker, director of promotions marketing at Comedy Central. "It's a perfect platform for us to do this for the first time."

Alltel said the show provides "a unique opportunity" to showcase its wireless service, especially with its debate format coming amid the presidential primary season.

"Some of the programming that is already on Comedy Central lends itself to trying something new, so we can showcase our services on a show that's a little bit outside of the box," said Lucie Pathmann, director of marketing communications at Alltel. "It's a good place to see how other shows that are going to have a debate format will do when it's all lighthearted."

The in-show bumpers will air after the first two segments of the show, and the text message results also will be posted at ComedyCentral.com.
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