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Exclusive: USA Warms Up to Summertime Sponsors

As the weather warms up, USA Network has signed Merck's
Coppertone brand to sponsor a special website that will highlight the shows the
channel will air during the summer.

Summer is a busy time for USA,
which airs most of its top-rated original series during the season. This year
all of those shows will be backed by 3600degree digital content experiences,
each of which has its own sponsor.

For example, the second-screen and online materials for the
new series Graceland is
sponsored by automaker Kia. Covert
' digital enhancements are backed by a new sponsor, Jaguar. Toyota
is returning as the digital sponsor for Royal Pains and Lexus returns for another season of Suits' "Suits Recruits"
online content.

Sponsor deals for USA's
other shows are in the process of being signed and those advertisers haven't
yet been revealed. Most digital deals go to sponsors who make sizable TV
advertising commitments.

"We're launching a summer site that's all about getting
people excited about the season, not only from a lifestyle stand point, but
also for the USA
summer lineup," says Jessica Sutherland, VP, content development, at USA.

The summer site will have mini-games and shareable content.
It will be promoted with a special TV spot, featuring talent from the shows. "It's
a fun way to take the theme of summer, which applies directly to USA
and to [Coppertone] and get people excited for the warmer weather and the flood
of new episodes on the DVRs," says Sutherland. Coppertone will also be
urging USA
viewers to send their summer pictures to its Instagram site.

has been an early adopter in creating webisodes, social TV applications and
second screen experiences around its shows and bringing in advertisers to
support them. This season USA
will be rolling out its synch platform, which times content to the episodes as
they air. "This is the most scripted content we've ever done," notes Sutherland.

The digital extensions are valuable to advertisers because
they bring a deeper brand engagement among viewers, according to Kirsten
Atkinson, media director for Team One, Lexus' ad agency. Lexus has been a
sponsor of Suits since its second
season.  "We're excited about taking this
opportunity to the next level," she said.

The relationships grew out of potential product integration
opportunity. The Lexus LS is the official vehicle of the show's Pearson Hartman
law firm. Through the "Suits Recruits" online experience, users get to drive
the car, participate in online-only cases as an associate and interact with the

"We do know we are tapping into a younger more affluent
audience, which is extremely important to Lexus," Atkinson says. "TV alone is
older and less affluent. What happens when we add these other devices is we're
able to tap into that next generation of luxury buyer. And that's extremely

Lexus also wants to be seen as an innovative brand.
Experiences such as second screen and social television, "definitely get Lexus
from a media planning standpoint, closer to being a player in the media space."

Last year's program gave Lexus lifts in other brand
attributes, including purchase intent, she said.

The creators and writers from USA's
series cooperate with the production of the digital extensions of their shows.

"There are so many things they'd like to do but they're not
able to in the space of an episode. And that's where we come in. We're able to
tell those stories digitally that otherwise wouldn't be told," Sutherland says.

"It deepens the fans' interaction and level of engagement
with the show in general and I think anytime people feel more connected to the
show, they're more likely to stay fans and they're more likely to tell their
friends about it," says Aaron Korsh, executive producer of Suits.

The extra revenue that the digital extensions generate can
mean a bigger budget for the show. "Sometimes the show gets some benefit in
terms of a little bit of money to do an extra piece of casting or an extra
location. Hopefully that will increase over time," Korsh says.

The extension for Covert
 focuses on the back story of the popular character Auggie
Anderson, played by Christopher Gorham, who himself has a substantial social
media footprint.

Anderson, who is blind, gets to ride in a new Jaguar in the
online stories -- as a passenger.