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Old Meets New in Network Promo Plans

Aug 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

To promote their fall lineups, network marketers are splitting their attention between developing cutting-edge online initiatives and embracing old-fashioned street-marketing tactics.
NBC is creating an online “Bionic Assessment Test” for “Bionic Woman” — and sponsoring 1,000 house parties to promote “Friday Night Lights.”
The CW is developing a video game based on “Reaper” — and handing out customized city “It Guides” to promote “Gossip Girl.”
ABC is producing customized, downloadable music videos for its returning shows — as well as hosting local screenings of fall shows (such as a “Pushing Daises” screening last week at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles).
The broadcast television networks are attempting to take advantage of the latest and greatest ways to connect with viewers online, while recognizing that few tactics can trump the communal experience of a localized event. What’s reduced in that equation is traditional media — print, billboards, radio and televised ads — as more funds are shifted online.
With only four new dramas to promote, NBC is conducting a multiplatform saturation bombing campaign in support of “Bionic Woman,” “Journeyman,” “Life” and “Chuck.” In addition to the “Bionic” online test, the network plans to run ads on screens in gas stations, movie theaters, taxis, health clubs and other venues.
“If there’s somewhere you’re walking that has a screen that doesn’t have NBC on it, give us a call and we’ll have it there soon,” quipped John Miller, chief marketing officer at NBC.
NBC also has the most aggressive strategy to make full pilot episodes available in advance of their premieres. Its four dramas will be available on demand via cable systems and streaming on sites like Yahoo and MSN. Three of the shows will be available for pre-debut sale on iTunes.
“People that seek out [the full episodes] tend to be fans — they can create an evangelistic army for the show,” Mr. Miller said.
ABC takes the opposite approach, declining to distribute premiere episodes on DVD or online in favor of localized event screenings and online teaser clips.
“When Coca-Cola is launching a new product, they don’t give away bottles, they give away samples,” said Michael Benson, executive VP of marketing, ABC Entertainment. “We like public events so people will talk about the shows.”
ABC was one of the first networks to screen shows at comic book convention Comic-Con and this year has expanded its localized screening program further. The network is uniquely challenged this fall by having eight new shows to launch without the benefit of former midweek tentpole “Lost,” which doesn’t return until January.
After conquering Thursday night last year, Mr. Benson is focusing particular attention on Sunday (with advertisements melding the combination of “Desperate Housewives” and “Brothers and Sisters”) and Wednesday (where ABC has a pure freshman drama lineup, including key show “Daises”).
“We’re trying to juggle priorities and give every show its own campaign,” he said. “And we really want to try and make Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday a destination.”
For its sophomore year, The CW is embracing online marketing to target its 18- to 34-year-old demographic, while leaning toward the ABC model in terms of sharing full episodes in advance.
“Especially with our audience, which really migrates nicely from media platforms, there is a concern if you show it to them early, they won’t show up for the premiere,” said Rick Haskins, exec VP, marketing and brand strategy, The CW.
In addition to the “It Guides” and the “Reaper” videogame, The CW plans to host “Gossip” screenings at 20 college sororities, pass out “Gossip”-branded cell phone decorations and enhance social networking features on its Web site.
One new addition: Viewers of the CW’s Web videos will be able to snip any portion of a show’s stream to e-mail to a friend or add to a MySpace page.
Fox will add a similar function to its online video player this fall.
With Fox’s head of marketing in transition last week from Chris Carlisle, who departed to work at New Line,, to former communications head Joe Earley, announced late Friday, the network declined to detail its overall marketing plan.
Fox.com’s senior VP of content strategy, Bill Bradford, detailed some of the network’s upcoming online marketing strategies.
“We’re redesigning all the sites to make better homes for our consumers to experience Fox content online,” Mr. Bradford said.
Like The CW, Fox will elevate the social networking features of Fox.com and add functionality that enables viewers to virally distribute clips from the shows. Also, after experimenting with housing its full-episode video player on MySpace, Fox.com will reclaim the player for its own this fall.
Fox.com also will add a Wikipedia-style, viewer-built database for Fox shows and is developing tie-ins for specific shows to be announced at a later date.
CBS is maintaining silence about its upcoming plans, although one media report said the network plans to use Twitter — a social-networking messaging service that sends brief updates to subscribers — to help promote shows this fall.
MyNetworkTV plans a traditional advertising campaign for its second year, supported by print magazine and bus ads, as well as cross promotions with existing shows. The network also intends to relaunch its Web site.

15 Comments

  1. I would just like to say what’s going on at NBC I hate to say but I think they went off the deep end!! they think they will find new viewers,with every thing as a remake,not once or twice removed,all I have to say is good luck to them I know I won’t tune in to any thing NBC EVER I’ll just wait for the heads to start to roll,people better wake up over their before it’s way to late,even with the hit of the summer,it won’t make it once the season get’s rolling.- THANKS- Dave Detroit

  2. Here’s the novel idea of the week, how about making better shows and giving them more of a chance to catch on?
    Or, the nets can just yank the rugs out from under us again and again until we just don’t bother until a show makes it to a first season DVD package.
    One more point, there were much better shows on the air when the nets couldn’t air their own content.
    They destroyed the internal check on quality just to grab some extra bucks on the back end.
    Sad.

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