`Blue’ special gets play on both ABC and Court TV

Sep 24, 2001  •  Post A Comment

ABC and Court TV are co-producing a pair of specials to promote “NYPD Blue.”
The specials, tentatively titled “NYPD Blue Through Andy’s Eyes,” will tout the off-network cable runs on Court TV and the series’ fall premiere on ABC. The specials-an hour-long one to air on Court TV and a half-hour version being offered to ABC affiliates for airing locally-are intended to serve as a retrospective of the cop show’s eight seasons as well as a sneak peek at the coming season on ABC in November.
However, the recent terrorist attacks that destroyed New York’s World Trade Center twin towers are bringing heightened awareness of the charitable portion of the cross-promotional campaign. Court TV is planning its second eBay.com auction of “NYPD Blue” props and other memorabilia to aid the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children’s Benefit Fund in recognition of both departments losing personnel in various actions-including the disaster at the WTC two weeks ago.
“We did one other `NYPD Blue’ auction last May to benefit the city’s police and firefighters lost in past events, but we certainly hope the new auction and the specials will cast a particularly strong light on the heroic deeds of our fallen heroes,” said Art Bell, Court TV’s executive VP of programming and marketing. It is believed that more than 250 firefighters and police officers are among the dead and missing from the WTC attack.
Mr. Bell said all proceeds of the eBay auction, set to start Nov. 4 in conjunction with a scheduled “NYPD Blue” marathon on the cable network and the airing of the hour-long special, will go to the police and firefighters fund.
Production of “Through Andy’s Eyes” began last August as the Steven Bochco-created drama began location shooting in New York. Seen as something akin to a cinema verite-style, behind-the-scenes documentary, the two specials feature interviews with past and current cast members, including ongoing lead actor Dennis Franz (who plays Detective Andy Sipowicz) and new cast members such as Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
Mr. Bell said conversations with ABC promotion executives Alan Cohen and Mike Benson are ongoing about possibly including a tribute to New York’s police, but they also say they are proceeding cautiously on how to do that.
“We want the special to feel very organic and try not to retrofit so it [doesn’t seem] like we’re trying to exploit the current situation,” said Mr. Benson, ABC’s senior VP of marketing, advertising and promotion.
“What it comes down to doing something that is still about `NYPD Blue’-past, present and future,” added Mr. Cohen, ABC’s executive VP of marketing, advertising and promotion. “This is about where Andy Sipowicz has gone in terms of character development in the show-and not about the dire consequences the firefighters and cops faced in the real-life tragedy.”
ABC will co-finance production of the specials in exchange for on-air promo spots within Court TV’s airing of the hour-long show for about six weeks prior to ABC’s season premiere of “Blue.” Additionally, ABC’s first-run episodes will be promoted in topical episodic spots on Court TV during “NYPD Blue’s” off-network airings for the first 10 weeks of the new broadcast season.
“What we’re trying do with Court TV is trying to expose the show to a whole new set of viewers and to introduce them to a new set of characters who are coming onto the show this season,” Mr. Benson said.
“We will not be promoting Court TV on our air, but ABC will be supporting this campaign in print, outdoor and other outside media buys that will also bring spillover interest to Court TV’s off-network run,” Mr. Cohen said. “This campaign will really be a model for other special cross-promotion agreements made between the broadcast and cable networks. And this one is certainly the first that I can recall between broadcast and cable networks not owned by the same parent company.”
ABC affiliates will be offered the half-hour version of the special, which is said to be a more of look forward at the new cast members. Affiliates will be able to retain all the revenue from the sale of commercial avails in the local and national spot markets. “Our stations don’t have a complete obligation [to carry the special], but it will allow them to sell something unique to their airtime locally,” said Mr. Benson, who added that stations will be free to air the special during their nonprime-time schedules.
The idea of doing the cross-promotion with ABC was originally concocted by Mr. Bell and Court TV President and CEO Henry Schleiff, both of whom have worked on cross-promotional and cross-programming ventures with ABC News and NBC News in recent years, Mr. Cohen said. Court TV, Mr. Bell said, has linked with ABC News in the past to offer news inserts and news specials anchored by “Nightline’s” Ted Koppel and has previously produced segments on high-profile cases in the judicial systems for exposure on NBC’s “Dateline” newsmagazine.
“This is the way we have to work together with broadcasters on building brands on multiple platforms,” Mr. Bell said.