NBC Puts Money on Screen in Pilot Pitches

May 4, 2009  •  Post A Comment

NBC began its pitch to advertisers Monday with a video of its new shows and a lot of talk about Jay Leno.
For a second year, NBC presented its programming strategy weeks ahead of the other networks.
Unlike last year, when—in part due to the Writers Guild of America strike—the network presented its plans with little video to illustrate its shows (and programs like “Kath & Kim” got a dubious reception), NBC showed media buyers and clients clips from what looked like big-budget pilots of most of the six shows it said it was picking up.
Jerry Seinfeld, whose reality show “The Marriage Ref” was picked up by NBC, and “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon appeared at the presentation to advertisers in the morning. Amy Poehler and Donald Trump showed up at an early afternoon presentation to the press. Kristen Wiig and Will Forte from “Saturday Night Live” were expected to appear at the evening presentation to media buyers and clients.
The network also talked about how eager it is to partner with advertisers in its scripted shows as well as in unscripted shows including Mr. Leno’s new primetime hour.
One media buyer, Peggy Green, vice chairman of media buyer Zenith, gave NBC a positive review, saying she “thought it was well done and enjoyable.”
NBC is heading into an upfront that Mike Pilot, NBC Universal’s president for sales, called “unpredictable.”
Mr. Pilot said economic statistics show that last year’s upfront took place during a recession and that sales and pricing was strong in that market. While there was some pullback in upfront deals during the second quarter, he continued, the second-quarter scatter market “was more healthy than we anticipated.”
He said that with a recovery possible later this year or in early 2010, “We’re starting to see advertisers leading into that.”
Marianne Gambelli, president of network sales at NBC Universal, said advertisers are evaluating the upfront more carefully than in the past and trying to make a commitment at the most favorable time.
But she noted that advertisers who try to wait out this upfront might be caught short because “scatter has been known to spike.”
NBC’s early “infront” is designed in part to get closer to advertisers and give them a better change to do integrated advertising in NBC’s programming.
In a tape, Mr. Pilot showed some of the 100 custom marketing projects NBC has done with clients over the past two years.
“We’re just getting started,” he said.
(Mr. Trump said he’d just heard from the president of Chicken of the Sea about how happy he was with the brand’s appearance in Sunday’s episode of “Celebrity Apprentice.” He said Kodak was the sponsor of the three-hour finale.)
In addition to announcing the shows the network will be picking up for the fall and midseason, NBC’s entertainment executives delivered a few more pieces of information.
Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, said “Heroes” would return on Monday nights and “Biggest Loser” would appear Tuesdays.
“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” probably will be returning to Wednesday, despite NBC’s ongoing salary dispute with stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni. Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said an offer had been made to the stars, but that the series would return with or without them.
Mr. Graboff said the series “Life” will not be coming back.
Despite earlier reports, NBC has not officially ordered a new season of “Medium.”
The renewal of long-running shows such as “Medium” on NBC is creating tough negotiations between the networks and studios over renewal terms, because they are at the point where the network is expected to pay nearly all of the cost of production.
“Some studio partners are eager to work with us to lower the cost of the show,” Mr. Silverman said. “Others are less eager.”
He added that the negotiations were not confined to money. Another issue is how many episodes will be ordered. NBC might decide to order 13 episodes of some of its bubble shows and air them after the Winter Olympics.


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