In what could be the next best thing to the ability to run coming attractions in TV viewers’ living rooms, CBS is offering movie companies a combination of TV commercials and streaming video to push their latest films.
Earlier this month, Warner Bros. became the first studio to stream a movie trailer on the network’s home page, CBS.com. In addition to running spots for its new film, Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River,” during CBS shows, Warner Bros. Pictures got billboards preceding the programs, including “The Guardian,” that advised viewers they could see the full theatrical trailer for the film at CBS.com.
The “see the trailer” ad for “Mystic River” was the only such ad on CBS’s homepage last week.
Two other Warner Bros. films, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “Gothika,” starring Halle Berry, will get similar treatment in coming weeks.
“This is a relatively new development, linking upfront broadcast buys with a presence on the corresponding Web sites of the networks,” said Don Buckley, senior VP, interactive marketing, Warner Bros. Pictures. “We don’t really have the results yet, but I would like to think this, and everything else we’ve done, contributed to the smashing opening we had for `Mystic River.”’
The package represents a new way for CBS to entice movie companies, which tend to pay top dollar for ads because they must reach potential ticket buyers within a small window for each film they release.
“It’s supply and demand, and if you’re buying an hour show or a half-hour show, there’s only a limited number of network commercial breaks,” said Joann Ross, president, network sales, CBS. “We don’t like to air competitors in the same pod, and typically we do not do that with 30-second spots. So if we’re the hot 18 to 49 or even 25 to 54 show on that night, and its a Thursday or a Friday approaching the weekend movie-going audience, yes, we do get very good rates from the studios.”
Because such a large part of the moviegoing audience is young, CBS, with its traditionally older-skewing audience, used to get a fairly small share of studio business.
“That has changed, and it changed markedly with the arrival of “Survivor” on our network,” said Ms. Ross. “Even that first third quarter, our first foray into reality programming with `Survivor,’ we started because it was attracting a younger demo. And we got a lot of attention from the movie studios.”
In 2000 CBS got about 9.6 percent of all movie ads, according to figures from Nielsen Monitor Plus. Those ads generated $44 million in revenue compared with the $230 million raked in by NBC. During the second quarter of 2003 CBS was still last among the Big 4 networks, but its share was up to 18 percent, generating $39 million. NBC in the quarter took in $103 million on movie ads.
So coming up with another way studios could spend money is a good thing for the network. “We try to be as nimble as possible doing what they want. And if we can do it from a creative basis and make them happy and garner some revenue, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Ms. Ross said. To sell this new network-online package, CBS’s prime-time sales group and its new media sales group worked very closely, said Linda Rene, senior VP, prime-time sales, CBS.
“As broadband hits critical mass, we have a lot of people who are coming to our site who can watch video,” added David Ghiraldini, VP, new media sales. “This gives us the opportunity to give our viewers the longer form on trailers, rather than the 30 or 60 seconds they buy on the networks.”
The idea came to Warner Bros. through its interactive agency, Beyond Interactive, and its entertainment agency, Grey Entertainment. Medicom buys media for Warner Bros..
“We frequently ask Beyond to collaborate with Grey, for example, on print buys,” said Mr. Buckley. “ If we’re in Rolling Stone in print, I like to find out if there’s a possibility of achieving some value added online as a consequence of that spending.” This is a similar approach, but with broadcast.
Warner Brother has had online tie-ins with Discovery Channel, A&E and History Channel. But “nothing ever with quite this size, scope or scale. Never anything with the Big 3,” Mr. Buckley said.
Ms. Ross said the new package will be offered to other studios. CBS doesn’t have a set price tag for the combination: “Every single package is a negotiation unto itself. It depends on what our availability is, what our client is bringing to the table, where they want to advertise, whether or not we think it’s a good fit,” she said.
Ms. Ross declined to say how much Warner Brother paid, but the studio bought a full run of spots on network shows and received billboards-the announcements (such as “The Guardian” is brought to you by “Mystic River.”) that run before programs “Any client that gets billboard exposure considers that added value. Certainly directing viewers to the trailer on the Web is valuable,” Ms. Ross said.
Sometimes networks give away billboards and other “value-added” items, but in this package there was incremental revenue that went to CBS.com, she said.
Mr. Buckley said the online component cost the studio “thousands” of dollars.
“I think everyone involved is viewing this as a test,” Mr. Buckley said of the still-small expenditure. “We know that when our URLs, our Web site content, is touted on the air, it is enormously effective. We see traffic jump enormously. We also know that younger demos are watching TV and online at the same time. We know that an increasing number of younger demos are getting more and more of their movie information from the Internet over and above radio.”
“Mystic River” was the only ad on the CBS.com site. “The home page is considered a special environment for us,” Mr. Ghiraldini said. “We try to keep the clutter down on the home page.”
But CBS.com has had more than 50 advertisers this year. They often advertise on the sites for specific shows. “`Survivor’ is a great example of a site we sell very deeply,” he said.
Although its too soon to tell how many viewers have gone to CBS.com to view the trailer, CBS is hoping there will be plenty of sequels to this “Mystic River” story.
“It’s something that we hope to get out there with all the movie studios,” Ms. Ross said. “It’s not going to be an exact formula, necessarily, but we’re excited about it.”
As for Warner Bros., “It’s too soon to ask, but if it works, I would love to do it again,” Mr. Buckley said.