As broadcast programming settles into post-season cruise control with reruns and reality filler, the cable networks are shifting into high gear with a raft of multiplatform offerings to promote their new summer series. Cable networks traditionally seek to lure broadcast audiences during the summer hiatus. This time, they are investing heavily in digital marketing efforts that include partnering with Web sites like MySpace on interactive features, deploying blogs, podcasts and text messages and offering advance plays of shows on broadband and video-on-demand (VOD).
And having paraded their multiplatform wares during the spring up­fronts, cable networks are looking to convince advertisers that they outpace broadcast networks when it comes to distributing content in new ways.
Lifetime is launching an array of promotional efforts for its dating-agency mockumentary series, Lovespring International, including a MySpace site where viewers can post dating stories. Viewers can also get dating advice from Lovespring characters by calling 888-4-THE-LUV or checking a Web site sponsored exclusively by Perfectmatch.com. And in a first for the network, the series is scheduled to premiere on Yahoo! before it is shown on TV.
“We’re really going to be infusing a significant amount of interactivity,” says Lisa Black, VP of business and marketing development, Lifetime Online. To promote its summer original movie Karaoke Queens, the network is pairing with karaoke site kSolo.com and is in talks with advertisers to sponsor an on- and off-air scavenger hunt for another new summer series, Angela’s Eyes.
Other networks are using the social-networking power of MySpace to lure young viewers with viral campaigns.
FX is leveraging its corporate kinship with MySpace (via News Corp.) for a contest tied to summer comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, offering $50,000 to the MySpacer who submits the most innovative TV pilot.
HBO still concentrates its marketing on traditional media, says Senior VP of Advertising Courteney Monroe, but it is spending more on interactive campaigns than ever.
The network is promoting its comedy series Dane Cook’s Tourgasm by inviting the comedian’s MySpace “friends” to don downloadable badges and become “Badassadors of Tourgasm.” The network also launched a MyEntourage site for the third season of its comedy Entourage to search for the hippest group of four friends, who will win prizes including Chrysler Crossfires and a VIP trip to Los Angeles.
Oxygen has a MySpace site for The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency, which premieres this month and will mention MySpace on the show in return for banner advertising on the site.
USA Network is one of several networks that will offer podcasts and blogs from their series’ behind-the-scenes talent. Fans of USA’s sci-fi series The 4400 can download free, weekly pod­casts from the show’s site, which provide “watch-along” commentary from executive producer Ira Behr. Writers, producers and the show’s music supervisor will contribute blogs.
“In terms of digital programming, this is clearly the biggest summer we’ve had in the history of the network,” says Chris McCumber, USA’s senior VP of marketing and brand strategy.
Bravo (like USA, an NBC Universal network) will offer blogs by cast members, including Kathy Griffin of My Life on the D-List and the folks on its Queer Eye series. For $2.99, the network will send viewers up to five text messages per episode from Phil Hellmuth, host of Celebrity Poker Showdown, as well as diet and fitness tips from trainers featured on the celebrity-gym series Workout.
And in what Bravo’s Senior VP of Marketing and Brand Strategy Jason Klarman calls “the best digital promotion of all time,” viewers can call 888 KATHY DLIST to vote on how Griffin should escape her D-list status. The network has logged more than 200,000 votes to an ad-sponsored site, www.offthedlist.com.
Female-skewing WE’s Bridezillas-inspired Youmaynowkisstheblog.com features the true diary of an engaged 27-year-old, while Oxygen will offer three video blogs a week from the host of its August beauty pageant series, Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance.
Summertime Sneak Peeks
Many networks are using their own sites and other Web portals to give their originals online play before they run on TV. TNT is partnering with Time Warner sibling AOL to offer sneak peeks and extra footage for original dramas The Closer and Saved.
TNT will also offer extra content for each series on VOD, as well as offering episodes of its summer limited series Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King on-demand two days after its Wednesday premiere—the shortest window between VOD and appointment offerings for a TNT series.
VH1 will run full episodes of its Michael Davies summer game show The World Series of Pop Culture on its VSPOT broadband site the day after they run on TV.
Fellow MTV Networks channel Comedy Central will do the same on its broadband site Motherload with full episodes and exclusive extensions of its new series Dog Bites Man.
Also, the network is offering a free episode of the show on iTunes for a week after its June 7 TV premiere.
And as promised in its upfront, the Disney-ABC TV Group has put full episodes of series from Disney Channel and Toon Disney’s action block Jetix on each network’s Web site.
Of note, Disney Channel is not ad-supported, but the video on its Web site is.
So much for going to the beach!
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