December 5, 2023

Advertising: Networks Try a Social Media Spin at the Upfronts

Social media have been an integral part of the sales pitch at the “upfront” presentations held by Fox on Monday, ABC on Tuesday and CBS on Wednesday.

“We’ve amassed 100 million fans on social media,” the president of entertainment for CBS, Nina Tassler, told advertisers. “That’s one hell of a water cooler.”

On Thursday, the CW network — owned by Time Warner and the CBS Corporation — will take it a step further, telling advertisers they can be part of its engagement with viewers. CW executives will announce at their presentation two initiatives that let advertisers follow viewers onto social media Web sites and reward them for watching.

In one new effort, in conjunction with a maker of mobile apps, Shopkick, viewers who open up an app at a certain time — say, when a store has a commercial running on a CW show — could receive special offers or discounts from that retailer. (The Shopkick app would listen to the audio of the commercial to detect when it appears.)

As Cyriac Roeding, chief executive of Shopkick, put it: “The cellphone is the only interactive medium that you carry with you while you’re watching TV and while you’re shopping in the store. The cellphone is therefore the only interactive medium that can function as the bridge between the TV screen and the store shelf.”

Shopkick hopes to gain new users through the deal with CW, for undisclosed terms. And CW hopes to be another bridge between advertisers and consumers.

“We know viewers have these other devices while they are watching TV,” said Rob Tuck, executive vice president for national ad sales at CW, adding that such viewers include his daughter, 16, and his son, 17.

The other initiative is an online game, Bwingo, to be used through Facebook or CW’s Web site, By playing the game during a broadcast, viewers “will have the ability to gain rewards,” Mr. Tuck said.

Both initiatives encourage live television viewing, rather than time-shifted viewing through DVRs.


Accompanying the CW announcements will be previews of new shows for the 2011-12 season, including “Ringer,” with Sarah Michelle Gellar, the star of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on a CW predecessor, WB, and “Hart of Dixie,” with Rachel Bilson.

The potential for strong advertising sales in the coming upfront market — called that because commercial time is sold before a season begins — is encouraging networks like CW to offer marketers new opportunities in addition to buying commercial time.

Some TV companies are hoping to capitalize on the perceived demand by adding hours of programming — and some are even adding networks.

Univision Communications, at its upfront presentation on Thursday, is to announce plans to start three cable channels in 2012, specializing in sports, news and the soapy, serialized Spanish-language dramas known as telenovelas.

“We want to build networks around the biggest passion points” of viewers, said César Conde, president of the Univision Networks unit of Univision Communications.

Also, as part of a deal with Grupo Televisa, the Mexican TV giant, Univision is acquiring the other 50 percent interest in six cable channels in which it had shared ownership. The channels offer programs in genres like comedy, movies and music.

Univision also operates two broadcast networks, Univision and TeleFutura, and a cable channel, Galavisión.

“Univision today is three,” Mr. Conde said, referring to the number of channels it operates. “Univision in 2012 will be 12.”

Coincidentally, two corporate siblings of CW — Turner, part of Time Warner, and CBS, part of the CBS Corporation — both made upfront presentations on Wednesday.

After joking his way (very effectively) through technical miscues that plagued his presentation, the Turner Entertainment president, Steve Koonin, urged advertisers to “stop leaving” the event and promised Turner’s networks, TNT and TBS, would be on all but equal footing with the broadcasters in the coming year.

TBS, the comedy network for Turner, and TNT, the drama network, are adding series that include “The Wedding Band,” with Brian Austin Green; “Falling Skies,” with Noah Wyle; and “Franklin and Bash,” with Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer.

TNT will also try to keep the magic going with a spinoff of its most successful series, “The Closer.” Mary McDonnell, who has played a recurring character on the series, will headline the spinoff, “Major Crimes.”

The other CW sibling, CBS, is reconfiguring its lineup for 2011-12 from a position of strength, adding five series — three dramas and two sitcoms — and moving several returning shows. The changes affect every night of the week, but a similar shakeup for 2010-11 paid off with notable ratings gains.

Among the surprises: “The Good Wife” is moving from 10 p.m. Tuesday to 9 p.m. Sunday, where it will face an ABC stalwart, “Desperate Housewives,” that is popular with women. Also, CBS is moving “Rules of Engagement” to Saturday — the first time in many seasons it will schedule original episodes of a scripted show on that night.


CBS will add one sitcom to its popular lineup of Monday comedies: “2 Broke Girls” will run at 8:30 p.m., following “How I Met Your Mother” and leading into “Two and a Half Men,” in which, as was announced last week, Ashton Kutcher will replace Charlie Sheen.

The other new sitcom is “How to Be a Gentleman,” on Thursday.

The new CBS dramas are “Unforgettable,” on Tuesday; “Person of Interest,” on Thursday; and “The Gifted Man” on Friday.

The upfront week is to end on Thursday with the presentations by CW and Univision, as well as another Hispanic network, Vme.

Stuart Elliott contributed reporting.

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