‘We Are’ Rebranding at CBS

Jun 5, 2006  •  Post A Comment

CBS affiliates who gathered with network executives last week for their annual meeting got a glimpse of a branding campaign for 2006-07 that isn’t much of a stretch but covers a lot of ground: “We are CBS.”

The network’s enduring Eye logo will hover at the end of the slogan like a trademark symbol, and CBS is staking out its turf in various television genres with tag lines including “We are comedy,” “We are news,” “We are reality” and “We are sports.” The campaign is designed to let affiliates customize material to suit their local markets.

Executives of CBS, the most-watched broadcast network for four years running, briefed station executives in Las Vegas on the fall lineup of shows they presented May 17 to advertisers in New York. The affiliates, benefiting from their connection to the network powerhouse, said they were pleased with CBS’s plans.

“I’ve got a good feeling about the fall,” said Susan Adams Loyd, the VP and general manager of Clear Channel’s CBS affiliate WTEV-TV and Fox affiliate WAWS-TV in Jacksonville, Fla.

CBS Marketing Group President George Schweitzer and Marketing Group Executive VP and Creative Director Ron Scalera chose “Da Promo Code” as the theme for their session with affiliates about localizable plans to promote shows, suggesting the “Dave Vinci Code” for David Letterman and his “Late Show.” They pitched “Jericho,” a post-apocalyptic drama set in the Midwest, as a story that “could happen anywhere, even in Chicago.”

Tying in network fare to local stations will be especially high priority this summer, when CBS plans to promote third-ranked “Early Show” morning program by putting real families on the road in RVs, who will report in.

“We call them promoter homes,” Mr. Scalera said of the “Great American Vacation” campaign.

Day Into Night

Steve Friedman, the former “Today” and “Early Show” executive producer recently brought back as president of morning news for CBS, will have weatherman-bon vivant Dave “Price Patrol” Price on the road with an interactive, Internet-based talent contest. It, like the “Great American Vacation” campaign, will launch this month.

Cosmetic changes are coming before any significant changes on “Early Show,” Mr. Friedman said.

“Our job is to do in the morning what Bob Schieffer has done in the evening: Do a better show and get the [ratings] arrow pointed up,” Mr. Friedman said. We all know you can’t compete in news unless you win in the morning.”

The reaction of the affiliates to what they heard and saw was “very positive, very positive” said Doreen Wade, the Freedom Broadcasting president who chairs the CBS affiliates advisory board.

Over the course of the two-day meeting, CBS executives also made presentations on the regulatory climate in Washington; the gains made by CBS News; the dynastic supremacy of CBS Sports, which has been No. 1 in four of the past six years; and the network’s many plans to distribute TV in new ways.

Katie Couric’s heavily promoted transition to anchor of “CBS Evening News” also will be part of the digital-media push, which includes rolling out more network and original content on the Web and mobile devices such as cellphones.

In private sessions between affiliate and network executives, there was a lot of talk about renewing the agreement under which stations shoulder some of the cost of the network’s NFL contract.

People familiar with the talks said they center not on money but on ways of fostering new network-affiliate partnerships.

Peter Schruth, president of affiliate relations for CBS, said the NFL talks with the stations are likely to wrap up soon. “I’d say weeks is a good estimate,” he said.

The network’s top men in Washington called for the network and affiliates to work together on such key issues as forcing cable TV operators to carry local broadcasters’ digital signals and the battle against signal interference caused by unlicensed devices operating in unassigned frequencies.

The possibility that Democrats will regain control of one or both houses of Congress in midterm elections this fall would lead to a change in committee chairmanships but no major shifts in policy, because the majority would have only a slim lead, said CBS Executive VP Marty Franks.

The network plans to spend millions of dollars on public service announcements that tout existing blocking technology as preferable to government regulation of program content.

“A fines bill may be great politics, but it’s little help to parents,” he said.