Controversy Sells ‘Reagans’

Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Viacom’s Showtime pay cable network will use the controversy surrounding “The Reagans” miniseries to help market the program, which originally was slated to air on sister broadcast network CBS.
“The love story. The legacy. The controversy. The Reagans,” is the TV and print advertising tagline for the three-hour program, which will premiere Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. At 9 p.m. Dec. 1, a town hall-style panel program, “Controversy: The Reagans,” will provide a forum to discuss aspects of the show, including CBS’s decision to pull it.
Showtime’s TV promo spots, which will run on the network through Dec. 1, will include stills and video clips from the movie to describe each point of the tagline-the love story, the legacy and the controversy. The creative work was done in-house by Showtime’s creative advertising unit, the Red Group.
The campaign will extend to network and spot radio, magazines and outdoor billboards. Showtime’s radio ads will be carried by Westwood One, and Infinity Broadcasting stations and print ads will appear in TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today.
A Showtime spokesman said the network’s marketing department would not disclose the amount of marketing dollars being spent on the miniseries.
At the time it was announced that the miniseries was moving from CBS to Showtime, the pay cable network said it would run “The Reagans” sometime in 2004. Days later, Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, said the network wanted to run the show as soon as possible to take advantage of the buzz generated by the controversy surrounding it.
Showtime will not make review copies available to television critics. Instead, the network and the Television Critics Association planned a conference call for Nov. 24 to discuss the project.
David Marrano, director of consumer insight, MindShare US, said, “The public has been bombarded with news. Before it drops from memory, the quicker the better to air it. This will not have our attention in six months.”
CBS said it decided not to air the project-which was to be a key piece of its November sweep programming schedule-because it didn’t meet the network’s standards in terms of accuracy of real-life events. Conservative political groups also pressured CBS to pull the program.
Showtime made some edits, including excising a controversial line about homosexuals and AIDS attributed to Mr. Reagan (played by James Brolin): “Those that live in sin will die in sin.”
Mr. Blank said the network made other “creative trims.”
A Showtime spokesman said the edited version is much closer to the producers’ original version than to the edited version that would have appeared on CBS.