Sundance nets first sponsors

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NEW YORK -- In the first-ever on-air sponsorship deal for the Sundance Channel, the network said Tuesday that Lexus and Smith Barney have signed on as co-presenting sponsors of its new environmental primetime programming block "The Green," which debuts April 17.

"This is a big time in Sundance Channel's history," said Kirk Iwanowski, executive vp marketing, branded entertainment and sponsorship. "For 10 years we have been a premium television network and as of Jan. 1, we are evolving into a branded entertainment and sponsorship model and this is the first announcement we have made with sponsors."

Sundance Channel first announced the shift from a premium commercial-free network to a sponsorship and branded-entertainment model in June.

Lexus and Smith Barney signed multiyear, multiplatform deals with Sundance Channel, which said it will provide them with unique customized sponsorship packages.

Lexus will be the exclusive sponsor of the Sundance original series "Big Ideas for a Small Planet," a 13-part character-driven documentary series produced by Scout which presents the "innovative designers, products and processes that are on the front lines of a new green world," Sundance Channel said.

Lexus and Smith Barney will co-sponsor not only the entire three-hour programming bloc but also two shortform interstitial series, "The Ecoists" and "Eco-Biz" as well as a series of environmental docus. "Ecoists" will showcase some of today's most active and recognizable environmental activists including Robert Kennedy Jr., Paul Newman, Daryl Hannah, Willie Nelson and Tim Robbins, and their causes of choice. "Eco-Biz" will explore the financial impact of environmental innovation in business.

Iwanowski said Lexus and Smith Barney will each be integrated into the bloc in unique ways. In "Big Ideas for a Small Planet," there will be a Lexus-branded eco-tip in each episode tied to the theme of that show.

Both brands will be integrated into Green Bloc packaging and promos and the advertisers will be individually integrated into show packaging for the original programming produced by the Sundance Channel for the bloc. Lexus and Smith Barney also will be integrated into off-air advertising for the bloc and individual shows.

"We're actually bringing the brands into the show packaging itself which has not been done before," Iwanowski said. "This allows the brands to travel with the show wherever it goes, whether it's premiering on the linear network, being broadcast on video-on-demand or being made available for download on iTunes."
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