NBC Universal TV: Marketing Council Deploys Promos to Best Advantage

May 30, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Virtually every division of NBC Universal has received some form of company-wide marketing support since the NBC Universal Marketing Council was created a year ago, said John Miller, chief marketing officer for the NBC Universal Television Group, who co-chairs the council with Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures.

The Marketing Council-which consists of some 40 marketing executives from across the company who meet every other week-focuses the company’s marketing resources on one priority entertainment product each week.

These pushes have paid off, Mr. Miller said. For instance, on the home entertainment front, the “Ray” and “Meet the Fockers” DVDs overdelivered on sales because of the Marketing Council’s efforts, he said.

One of the most valuable tools in the council’s arsenal is, of course, NBC’s promotional airtime. “The network is the big driver,” Mr. Miller said.

In April, the Marketing Council helped lift viewer awareness of “The Interpreter,” a major Universal Pictures theatrical release starring Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. Weeks before its release, research showed the movie wasn’t getting good “unaided” recall from consumers.

“We put on four-second and seven-second [NBC] IDs [for the movie],” Mr. Miller said. “This is something that they couldn’t buy-things that were fairly easy for us to put on. We did it for ‘Friday Night Lights’ and we did it for ‘The Interpreter.’ We saw noticeable increases in the unaided scores when we have done this.”

Mr. Miller said these short promos are typically used for the network’s own general branding efforts.

In fact, with NBC airtime in such demand from the company’s non-network divisions, some industry watchers have questioned whether NBC might be sacrificing resources it needs for its own shows.

But Vince Manze, president of The NBC Agency, which does all the creative promotional work for NBC as well as for some NBC Universal cable networks, said NBC programs come first concerning its own airtime.

This is especially true during sweep periods, in which NBC Network shows get exclusivity over other NBC Universal entertainment properties.

“We work around the needs of the network,” Mr. Manze said.

Even then, it’s not a one-way street, Mr. Miller insisted. While NBC gives up promo time for other NBC Universal properties, other divisions reciprocate.

For instance, when NBC launched midseason entrants “Medium” and “Revelations,” cable networks USA Network, Sci Fi Channel and Bravo ran on-air promos for those shows.

Also, a new ride, Fear Factor Live, based on the NBC reality series “Fear Factor,” will open later this summer at the Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood theme parks. As part of the cross-promotion for the ride and the show, a “Fear Factor” episode, which aired May 23, was shot at the Orlando park. All NBCU media outlets, including NBC, Telemundo, NBC-owned television stations and NBC cable networks, ran promos for the new attraction.

Another key TV initiative this year has been working with the NBC-owned stations and NBC Universal Television Distribution’s “Access Hollywood,” the daily syndicated entertainment magazine show that airs on the O&Os. To help tout NBC’s midseason efforts and some DVD releases, the council came up with a plan to produce a special weekend hour “Access Hollywood,” distributed on the O&Os and other stations that carry “Access,” that focused on such properties as “Medium” and “Revelations.”

The special show, which aired in January, also boosted “Access Hollywood,” said Betsy Bergman, VP of marketing for NBC Universal Television Distribution. The extra play of “Access Hollywood” itself gave the program additional marketing spin, she said.

Other TV projects also have been deemed “priority” projects, including USA Network’s “The 4400” and Bravo’s “Project Runway.”

Come August, NBC Universal Television Distribution’s upcoming untitled daytime syndicated show starring Martha Stewart will be one of the top priorities of the company. Details of the promotional push haven’t yet been firmed up.

Two of the NBC Universal cable networks, CNBC and MSNBC, haven’t benefited as much from the Marketing Council. This is in part because those networks haven’t had many new shows that have launched. The council so far has opted not to put any marketing effort into existing shows. “When you have an ongoing show, you have to make some judgments-how much are we going to influence it? Then we say, ‘Can we make more hay of a new DVD or a new film rather than trying to goose ratings of a show that is already on?’ As a result, those networks haven’t always made the cut.”

Still, Mr. Miller said later this year the Marketing Council will tout a new MSNBC show with Tucker Carlson.