CW Taps Viewers for Promos

May 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The CW television network plans to invite viewers to produce some of its on-air promotions, marking a new turn in broadcasters’ efforts to engage audiences.

The network, preparing for its first upfront advertising sales market, is taking a cue from cable channels, including VHI, that are tapping the craze for homemade Web videos to generate show segments. The CW will let the public use network footage along with viewer-created content to produce the promotions, said Bill Morningstar, who is handling ad sales for the new network.

Like established broadcasters, The CW-formed by the combination of UPN and The WB-is experimenting with new ways to lure audiences that are increasingly defecting to the Internet, video-on-demand and video games. Soliciting videos and featuring them on the air represents a change in strategy for television executives, who are trying to turn budding entertainment rivals into allies.

“They can send pictures and mix with friends’ pictures to go on the network and give young adults fame,” Mr. Morningstar said. “We can create a really interactive viewing experience.”

The CW, formed by CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment in January, will discuss its promotional strategies in greater depth this month at its upfront advertising presentations, network spokesman Paul McGuire said.

The use of viewers’ digital creations echoes an earlier television fad, when producers capitalized on the growth of the consumer video camera market to generate shows such as “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”

Cable networks have led the way in reaching out to young viewers who have popularized video-trading Web sites such as YouTube.com and Break.com.

Advertisers have already tapped audiences to generate material for commercials, said Aaron Cohen, Horizon’s executive VP and director of broadcast.

“There are companies soliciting the public to create their own commercials,” he said. “This is an extension of that.”

It’s possible that by keeping multitasking viewers occupied online, they might be less likely to change channels. Other TV executives, notably NBC Universal’s Jeff Zucker, have talked extensively about creating digital extensions for their television programming. NBC’s digital initiative is dubbed NBC 360.

The CW is “looking to do the same thing, and it would not surprise me if we see that of the other guys as well,” said Marc Goldstein, president and CEO of MindShare North America. “Everybody is looking at a need to stretch their program content to engage the viewer.”

In a CW presentation two weeks ago with Horizon Media, the network played up its affiliate roster, the potential of its programming and the possibility that it may retain UPN’s Monday night comedy block, said Aaron Cohen, Horizon’s executive VP and director of broadcast.

Though there was no mention of user-generated content in the CW meeting, it would be a natural progression for the network, he said.

Jon Lafayette and Daisy Whitney contributed to this report.