Cinemax banks on Banshee to establish brand identity

Michelle Clancy | 16-01-2013

US premium cable network Cinemax is gearing up to launch its third original series, Banshee, in a move that one analyst said could finally give the network the identity that it's been missing all these years.

Helping things along is a multiscreen, multi-platform push around the series to bring it to mainstream attention.

Cinemax has long been the home of second-run films and what is popularly known as 'Skin-emax', its late-night 'adult' programming block. But most of all it's been living under the shadow of sister network HBO, which has consistently been setting itself apart with a roster of top-notch original series and specials, like Hemingway and Gellhorn, Game of Thrones, Girls, Boardwalk Empire, The Newsroom and Mildred Pierce.

For years, Cinemax "never really had a brand definition and lacked the original programming that defines HBO," said BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield, in a blog. "That is all beginning to change with Cinemax rolling out Banshee ... Cinemax is trying to become a network that means high quality action/thriller series."

Banshee, executive-produced by Alan Ball (True Blood, Six Feet Under) and Greg Yaitanes (House), is set in New York and Pennsylvania Dutch Country, and features a shades-of-grey cast of characters who could be good or could be bad, but make for high drama as crimes are committed and avenged.

For Greenfield, the fact that Banshee was conceived as a multiscreen production is significant. "What caught our attention about Banshee is how the series is using technology to fuel how they make and market the content," he said.

For instance, a prequel digital comic book explains the origins of the characters and their situations, while a Banshee microsite offers show information and the ability to unlock content related to the codes displayed by the lock during the title sequence of each episode. There are also tweets from one of the show's characters discussing what happened during that week's episode from their perspective (Deva's Twitter page, @bansheedeva).

"While it's too early to tell whether Banshee and the Cinemax rebrand will be successful, this could yield an interesting and unexpected leg of growth for the HBO division of Time Warner," Greenfield said. "In success, Cinemax would not only be creating another outlet for great serialised drama, but also continuing to move consumers away from ad-supported television content and increasing the competition with SVOD services trying to break into original programming such as Starz, Netflix, Amazon and even EPIX."