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Mac to School

Like many, Twentieth Television hit the beach over Labor Day weekend. Only it was there to work: Backing the Sept. 12 off-net syndication debut of Fox comedy The Bernie Mac Show with a back-to-school–themed push, street teams gave away Bernie Mac beach balls at beaches in New York and Los Angeles. With weather cooperating on both coasts, says Susan Kantor, Twentieth Television senior VP, marketing and creative, the “School's Back and So Is Bernie Mac!” promotion was “extremely effective.”

She is hoping to reach out not just to fans of the show but to new viewers as well: “In many cases, Bernie Mac will air on new stations and new time periods, exposing the show to a whole new audience.”

With network sitcoms in a down cycle and few breakthrough hits of late, Kantor says, it's crucial to promote a newly syndicated comedy to the widest audience possible. “Research shows sitcoms that highlight family life attract the broadest audiences,” she says. “Our promotions and creative materials for the syndicated launch have all been created and executed with that in mind.”

Twentieth is also rolling out an on-air sweepstakes and a series of radio promotions this week. The “watch-and-win” promo is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and will drive viewers online, where they can win HP computers and accessories, as well as backpacks filled with PDAs and Bernie Mac merchandise. The radio campaign, sponsored by Apple, targets adults 18-49 in the top 20 markets for two weeks. DJs are giving away Photo iPods and entries to the HP contest.