USA Network’s PSA for its Characters Unite campaign,
featuring Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
.

USA Network has extended its Characters Unite public service campaign, which it’s highlighted during the month of February for the past two years, with several new elements. And according to Melissa Tolchin, vp, affiliate marketing, the network’s affiliate partners are more involved than ever.

 
Participating MVPDs, including Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Mediacom, Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink, have most notably embraced the Characters Unite Awards, Tolchin said. USA provides a customized PSA for each distributor specific to its market. From there, a panel selects one winner from each affiliate along with two national winners, and each receives a $5,000 grant and is featured in a PSA. The net just started its call for entries for the Awards’ 4th iteration; nominations have grown by the thousands year over year.
 
Additionally, the network created PSAs that feature members of Congress, athletes, actors and others speaking out against particular forms of discrimination. Using the phrase “I Won’t Stand for…”, each has declared an issue that they personally refuse to tolerate, whether that’s bullying, racism, gender inequality or other forms of discrimination.
 
USA has also embarked on a national bus tour promoting the campaign for the second year in a row. But new this February is extending the RV tour to college campuses. “With every year we’re trying to broaden who we’re talking to,” said Tolchin. A key focus is getting “in front of the youth,” in order to provide them with the tools to combat intolerance in all its forms, she said. At each campus, the network and participating MVPDs let students identify their own cause to get behind by personalizing the “I Won’t Stand For…” phrase on a t-shirt. There’s a social component, too, where students take photos and post them on social networks. “It’s a way to share what you’re proud of,” Tolchin said.
 
Another ongoing aspect of Characters Unite is the use of the not-for-profit storytelling group The Moth, which works with students’ storytelling skills and puts together a live event celebrating their work. The last affiliate partnership occurred with Cox in Las Vegas in the fall and coincided with USA’s first UniteLIVE concert aimed at bullying prevention. Tolchin said they’re planning two more Moth partnerships with other distributors later this year. “A lot of these MVPDs have their own pro-social initiatives,” she said, so the fact that they’ve gotten on board with Characters Unite four years and counting is something to be proud of. “It’s a true testament of the program.” 

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