T-Mobile’s Calling ‘Todd TV’

Dec 8, 2003  •  Post A Comment

In a deal that includes product placement and advertising, FX has signed T-Mobile as the official wireless phone provider for its upcoming reality show “Todd TV.”
“Todd TV,” produced by Endemol USA, will follow the life of a 30-year-old waiter from Southern California, Todd Santos. During each show viewers will be asked to vote to make two key decisions for Todd. Those could include whether or not to quit his job, dump his girlfriend, buy a car or go on vacation.
Between shows, FX will air interstitials showing what Todd is up to at that moment.
Under terms of the deal, estimated by industry sources at just under $1 million for the show’s scheduled seven-week run, Todd will carry a T-Mobile phone. There also will be exclusive content and merchandise offered to T-Mobile customers, who will be automatically be entered into a sweepstakes when they vote. T-Mobile subscribers will get occasional calls asking them to vote on decisions Todd is making at that moment, such as what movie to see. The show is scheduled to premiere Jan. 21. “The key element is the two-way interactivity,” said Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of entertainment sales for Fox Cable Networks Group. “It was critical to us to have a wireless provider. We believe T-Mobile’s product and functions really lend themselves to this.”
One phone function is digital picture-taking. As an example, Todd might attend a movie premiere and use his camera phone to e-mail pictures to his buddies and girlfriend. A diary and photo gallery from the show will be available exclusively to T-Mobile subscribers.
“Letting the public use new media brings a cachet to the program,” said Elizabeth Sherman, VP of new media at Endemol.
Users of T-Mobile and several other mobile phone providers will be able to vote via text messaging. Each message will cost 50 cents, with the proceeds being divided among the network, the producer, the mobile carrier and a facilitator.
With decisions being made in real time, the wireless technology was essential, Ms. Sherman said. While men may tune in to see Todd and his male friends, women may be active voters because he is appealing and they’ll want to help him live up to his potential, she said.
Mr. Lefkowitz said FX hopes to sign sponsors in two other categories to similar deals incorporating product placement as well as advertising. A movie studio could be one, the other could be a brewer or other alcoholic beverage marketer.
Most of the rest of the spots are being sold in the scatter market to sponsors looking to reach an audience expected to be in the 18- to 49-year-old demo, skewing to 18 to 34. Mr. Lefkowitz said “Todd TV” is virtually sold out at costs-per-thousand that rival the network’s other original programming, including “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck.”
“We are nimble enough and the network’s reputation has emerged so that sponsors are really excited when we bring them an opportunity like this,” he said.