Promo Push Is on for ‘Raymond’ Exit

May 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Everyone at Viacom loves Raymond.

In what George Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group, called the biggest push ever for a finale on Viacom-owned CBS, several of the network’s sibling units are contributing to a marketing push to give the CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” a strong sendoff.

The programming effort to build viewership for the 9-year-old show’s May 16 finale includes bits on CBS News’ “Early Show” and “Late Show With David Letterman” and cable networks TV Land and Comedy Central. Promotional fare also is scheduled to run on the air with stations carrying “Raymond” episodes in syndication, and in the air with the “CBS Eye on American” in-flight programming.

CBS also plans to buy ad time on an array of Viacom outlets, including cable networks, outdoor and Infinity radio stations. The network will be co-marketing with CBS affiliates and promoting the last episode on its top-rated shows, including the conclusion of “Survivor.”

“The goal is to invite American families everywhere who have lived with the Barone family for the past nine years to be there for the finale,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “We want to make sure everybody loves `Raymond’ one final time.”

Viacom is weighing a plan to split itself into two companies: one including CBS, the radio stations and outdoor advertising assets, the other with the cable networks and Paramount Pictures. But Mr. Schweitzer said that if the plan goes through, those units will continue to work together.

“We’re still in a family. Even if the stocks might be different, it’s still in their interest and our interest to do business on both sides marketingwise,” said. “We’ll continue to be big clients of MTV Networks.”

CBS has sold out its advertising on the finale at about $1.3 million per commercial. A handful of spots remain available on the one-hour highlights show that will precede the last episode.

“Raymond” will, in turn, be used by the network to promote “Two and a Half Men,” which next fall will inherit “Raymond’s” Monday 8:30 p.m. (ET) time slot, and the special two-hour season finale of “CSI” directed by Quentin Tarantino, Mr. Schweitzer said.

Viacom cable networks will air “Raymond” specials.

TV Land will pre-empt its regular programming for the “Raymond” finale. At 9 p.m. TV Land will show its viewers a room filled with 210 men named Raymond, each wearing a T-shirt with the title and number of his favorite episode. They will stand and introduce themselves for the entire half-hour. During the program, the network will remind viewers they should watch the finale on CBS.

“There are certain times in television’s history when something substantial happens in modern-day television. We just want to make sure that we acknowledge it and our viewers are aware of it. Not that there are going to be a lot of people who are unaware of the fact that `Raymond’s’ going off the air,” said Larry Jones, president of TV Land/Nick at Nite. “We have an ability to pay homage to them and to really mark the occasion.”

TV Land also aired specials on the last episodes of “Seinfeld” and “Friends.” Mr. Jones said he hopes someday to have “Raymond” on TV Land or Nick at Nite. He noted that “Raymond” executive producer Phil Rosenthal has been quoted as telling the sitcom’s staff that they’re not making the show for CBS, they’re making it for Nick at Nite because he wants it to survive for 15 years. “I love that,” Mr. Jones said.

“Raymond” currently appears on TBS under a long-term deal.

CBS’s “Early Show” plans to cover live the shooting of the TV Land special.

“They’re going to be doing coverage about `Raymond’ going off the air anyway. We figured this was a perfect complement piece for it,” said Paul Ward, senior VP of communications for TV Land.

On May 13 and 14 Comedy Central will air half-hour specials featuring series star Ray Romano’s stand-up act.

King World will give the stations that air “Raymond” in syndication a special month of programming this month. This week’s episodes will be cast specials. And over the weekend of May 14-15, stations will be able to run four-hour marathons of episodes selected by Mr. Romano and Mr. Rosenthal. The marathons will be introduced by an actor or writer from the show.

CBS’s promotional spots for the last episode of “Raymond” include congratulatory spots that were filmed by Viacom celebrities including Dr. Phil McGraw, star of King World-distributed “Dr. Phil”; Jeff Probst, host of CBS’s “Survivor”; Charlie Sheen, star of CBS’s “Two and a Half Men”; and Anthony LaPaglia, of CBS’s “Without a Trace.”

For affiliates, CBS is providing a package of spots focusing on great “Raymond” moments. The packages can be localized by the stations.

“It’s a great sweeps event and a wonderful way to bring people together, which is what network TV does best,” Mr. Schweitzer said.