Editorial: Extended TV Seasons Beg More Marketing

May 18, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Did anyone else at the upfronts in New York reflect on the movement away from a fall-season crush of new product and what it means to the future of television?
The slow creep away from a back-to-school starting gun for a clot of new shows means new material will dribble out throughout the fall season, and still more new shows will be pushed out midseason and in spring and summer.
The upside? The networks won’t compete against themselves—and each other—as much for viewers’ attention. The downside? The culture’s attention won’t be fixed as firmly on the medium when new shows are rolled out. That necessitates more spending to market the creative that’s being introduced.
The upfront advertising presentations this year were a mixed bag of low-key sales meetings, NBC’s experimental “Experience” (a walk-through exhibit that highlighted NBC Universal’s multiple media) and the full-blown presentations of yesteryear.
Yes, the parties still drew ad buyers and press with the heady mix of stars, network and studio executives and chilled shrimp (tip of the hat to The CW). But in this transition year, the press, whose stories set the public’s expectations for the coming fall season, spent almost as much time trying to figure out what the toned-down presentations meant as it did writing about the new network fare.
Last week in this space, we questioned the wisdom of the industry backing away from the blockbuster presentations of the past, purely from a marketing perspective. The NBC Experience got mixed reviews, but the company should be credited for experimenting with a format that could be used to pump up interest in television despite a dearth of new shows to present to advertisers.
That kind of experimental boldness should carry forward now into the marketing of new programs as networks trickle them out over the year. There’s a longstanding and legitimate aversion to “buying ratings” through marketing. But that analysis should be suspended long enough to make sure the viewing public gets acclimated to the new regime of year-round network programming.
Does it hurt the media companies’ pocketbooks to increase marketing spending in an era of declining ratings? Of course.
But it may hurt even more down the line if that marketing investment isn’t made now.


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