A Big Splash for a Prohibition Drama

New York Times – Advertising

By STUART ELLIOTT

WHAT does a cable channel do after losing a virtual monopoly on critically lauded, highly rated programming? How about taking a walk on Boardwalk?

The channel is HBO, which is battling to regain the acclaim it enjoyed not long ago when its prime-time schedule featured shows like “Sex and the City,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos” and “The Wire.” Although some current HBO series like “True Blood” are generating buzz, channels like AMC, FX, Showtime, Starz and USA are making millions of viewers forget the slogan “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.”

To help turn the tide, HBO is betting on “Boardwalk Empire,” a 12-episode drama series that is to begin on Sept. 19. The show, based on actual events, takes place in the 1920s and uses Atlantic City as a microcosm of how profoundly the United States was changed by Prohibition. “When alcohol was outlawed,” the tune-in ads proclaim, “outlaws became kings.”

A multimedia campaign to promote “Boardwalk Empire” is scheduled to begin on Monday. HBO plans to spend “a little north of $10 million” on the campaign, said Chris Spadaccini, vice president for advertising and promotions for HBO in New York.

That is more than half what it cost to make the first episode, which was directed by Martin Scorsese; he is also a producer of the series.

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