E! sells ‘Anna’ on cumed basis

Aug 12, 2002  •  Post A Comment

“The Anna Nicole Show” debuted last week to stellar ratings and scathing reviews.
But passing unnoticed among all the double-entendres, the speculation about star Anna Nicole Smith’s possible medication and the critical umbrage over her so-called exploitation was E! Entertainment’s adoption of cable’s latest technique in the ratings war with broadcast television-the instant replay of a premiering program.
That’s a technique that Turner’s TBS has recently begun using with its movie specials, airing back-to-back multiple runs of “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” over a Sunday and a Tuesday in late July, for example, with the explicit purpose of selling aggregated, or cumed, ratings to advertisers. Now E! is moving gingerly into the same new territory with “Anna Nicole.”
The back-to-back repeats of the first episode of “Anna Nicole” on a recent Sunday and Tuesday are “definitely unprecedented for us,” said Neil Baker, the network’s senior VP of advertising sales. He estimated that approximately 70 percent of the advertisers who signed on for the premiere episode on Sunday stayed in for its instant replay. Both Sunday runs of the premiere were sold out, he said.
E! is among the top-ranked cable networks for upscale 18- to 49-year-olds, and “Anna Nicole” advertisers were clearly looking to reach them. “The new generation of adults 18 to 49 make their viewing decisions not based on the old mindset of upscale, which was documentary and culture-oriented programming, but they make their viewing decisions based on pop-culture-oriented programs,” Mr. Baker said. “It’s a pop-culture generation, so what you think of as tried-and-true upscale is no longer the case.”
Among the advertisers in for the premiere “Anna Nicole” episode were movie studios, beer companies and fast food restaurant chains. New Line advertised “Goldmember,” the latest “Austin Powers” installment; Paramount advertised “Serving Sara,” the upcoming theatrical feature starring Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Perry; Buena Vista advertised “Signs,” the sci-fi picture starring Mel Gibson. Taco Bell, Budweiser and Miller also ran ads during the show.
Of course, movie studios and beer companies are often cited as “heat-seeking” advertisers, who are not dissuaded by controversial subject matter and actively seek it out, knowing that’s precisely what will attract the same young audiences that they’re trying to reach. Approximately a “dozen and a half” advertisers from E!’s customary roster declined to be in “The Anna Nicole Show,” Mr. Baker said.
Though he declined to discuss specific advertisers who were in or out, Mr. Baker, a former Fox executive who recalled earlier ad wars over “Married … With Children” and “The Simpsons,” among others, did say that the number who declined to be in the show was fewer than he had expected and that the “vast majority of our over 400 national advertisers are okay with the show.”
E!’s initial pitch to advertisers was to include “Anna Nicole” in larger run-of-schedule packages-standard practice at E!, Mr. Baker said-where “Anna’s” high opening numbers will count toward meeting an overall guaranteed cost-per-thousand and aggregate rating points. This week, E!’s sales force goes out with a new “Anna Nicole”-centered package that will “have a heavy mix of `The Anna Nicole Show’ in it,” Mr. Baker said. “It would have as well some regular programming that advertisers would be interested in, and it would be offered out to the categories that are typical of this type of programming. That would be the movie studios, fast foods, video games, home video.”
For the record, the premiere episode of “The Anna Nicole Show” drew a 4.1 coverage-area household rating, with approximately 4.1 million viewers, for its first half-hour telecast, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The average for the first two half-hours, the premiere and its instant replay on Sunday, was a 3.1 coverage-area household rating, with about 3 million viewers. The adults 18 to 49 average for the two half-hours was a 2.1 rating, with 1.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen. There’s been no final decision yet about continuing the double plays past this last weekend, an E! spokeswoman said.