‘Access’ to Expand Selling

Feb 13, 2006  •  Post A Comment

With NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution taking over ad sales for “Access Hollywood,” look for more in-show sponsorships and cross-selling with other NBC units, company executives said.

The entertainment news show has already expanded its relationship with Verizon Wireless, is creating new segments that could be ad-supported and has signed AT&T to a major Web sponsorship.

Ad time on “Access Hollywood” has been sold by Warner Bros., but that contract expires at the end of the season, said Barbara “Bo” Argentino, who was named senior VP of advertising and media sales last month at NBCU. “Now that we’re all here and in place, there’s no way we want to pass up the opportunity to sell a program of this quality.”

Ms. Argentino said NBCU sales staffers began talking to buyers at last month’s National Association of Television Program Executives convention in preparation for the upfront.

Also attending some meetings with advertisers was “Access” executive producer Rob Silverstein, who said he’d never been on a sales call in nine years with the show.

“I like getting in there and talking up the show,” Mr. Silverstein said. While Warner Bros. did a nice job of sales, “We’re a priority now,” he said. “I think NBC will be able to maximize how great this show is, and how young we skew and how great the demos are.”

Mr. Silverstein said he’s getting very involved in decisions on in-show sponsorships. “I’d rather be in on it right at the beginning,” he said.

Mr. Silverstein is not involved in discussions about how much sponsorships will cost. “I just want to sell [advertisers] on the fact that we can deliver and we have a great show,” he said.

While producers of reality shows and of shows in other genres are becoming increasingly involved in sponsorships, news shows are expected to maintain a wall between advertising and content.

“Access” has to adhere to the same rules as NBC News, Mr. Silverstein said. “Other shows can slap sponsors on anything,” he said. “We have guidelines we have to meet and we have to make it organic in the show.”

“Access” formed a lucrative relationship with Verizon Wireless when the show was building a new set at the beginning of the season. “Access” went on the road using a Verizon Wireless bus, and the mobile company now sponsors all of the show’s music segments. “Access” has a separate producer and edit bays to put together the mobile content. “There’s enough money there that we can do it this way,” Mr. Silverstein said. “That’s how important this is.”

Cosmetics company Maybelline sponsors a fashion segment and Volkswagen sponsored coverage of the movie “King Kong,” which was produced by NBCU.

More segments are on the way. Mr. Silverstein and the show’s other producers have been considering new features that could be pitched to sponsors. They’ve come up with about 20 so far, some of which might be added to the show. “Not only is it a new segment that people are going to like, but we can sponsor this segment and make money,” Mr. Silverstein said. “That’s a win across the board.”

One segment currently in need of a sponsor is a celebrity smile of the week.

Mr. Silverstein said the show’s Web site is also expanding, with 27 million page views in January, up from about 500,000 last year. “Our Web site has exploded and we’re going to relaunch it in May,” he said. AT&T has signed on as a sponsor in a deal he described as the site’s biggest ever.

“The Web site is taking off because the show is pushing people to the Web site and the Web site delivers,” he said.

“We will be looking to do some additional things with the show with not just the cooperation but the enthusiasm of the show’s producer,” Ms. Argentino said. “He’s really looking forward to doing some creative things in the program with advertisers. That enables us to have a lot more fun and bring our advertising clients more value.”

In addition to in-show sponsorship, Ms. Argentino said she will be looking for other cross-platform plays and opportunities to work with other NBC units.

“We have a pretty good array of media platforms here,” she said. “We are a company that is more and more stressing digital going forward and the Internet and all the things you can do with that space.”