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Roadblock or Roadkill

Steve Sternberg, one of the ad industry’s top researchers when he was with MagnaGlobal, has been pushing an interesting idea on his blog lately.

His proposition is that the broadcast networks aren’t doing enough to build buzz for their new shows and one thing they should be doing is buying spots on their rival broadcasters’ airwaves.

“Despite the fact that there are several real good new shows on the way (I’ve seen all the pilots), particularly Detroit 1-8-7, The Event, Better With You, Blue Bloods, Body of Proof, Hawaii Five-O, Nikita and Undercovers, I’ve seen little pre-season buzz for any of them. Oh that’s right. The broadcast networks still promote themselves on their own air to an increasingly decreasing audience base,” he writes.

“If the broadcast networks promoted on another’s new series, it would almost be like advertising on the Winter Olympics every night. I still find it dumbfounding that the networks would choose to ignore advertising their best product to three-quarters of the available and hungry consumers,” Sternberg concludes.

I’m not sure Steve’s right this time.

For one thing, there’s the competitive realities of the network TV business. Only in Miracle on 34th Street does Macy’s tell you to go buy something from Gimble’s.

There is also an issue of clutter, Each broadcaster has a number of shows it plans to launch in the fall. That’s confusing enough for most viewers. It would be just about impossible to remember which new cop show is on which network if the same promos are running on every channel.

Finally there’s the issue of targeting. The network do promote their shows beyond their own airwaves. During summertime, they follow viewers to cable where fans of original programming are getting their fill. Ads on cable are cheaper and there is a higher concentration of those desirable young viewers there.

And as the season’s premieres get closer, the network’s clever promo people will be putting ads for their new shows all over the place, on everything from dry cleaning bags to eggs.

While network TV’s reach makes it a powerful tool for most marketers, I don’t think that advertising on rival networks would be the most effective way for the broadcasters to be spending their money.

Anyone else got an opinion?