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‘Wheel’ Solves Promo Puzzle With Banquet

Conagra Foods is giving Wheel of Fortune a spin. The top-ranked syndicated game show is teaming up with Banquet frozen TV dinners on a big cross-promotional push.

A Wheel of Fortune sweepstakes is being featured on 48 million Banquet packages. Each package contains a code number that gives consumers access to special games of Wheel they can play online to win prizes.

On-air spots for Wheel and Banquet will urge viewers to go to their supermarket freezer cases to find the specially marked packages and start playing. They will also push viewers to tune into “Meal of Fortune” week beginning Sept. 29 to watch and win. Online viewers can expect to see the Banquet tie-in promoted on the redesigned

Tying in to the popular program made as much sense as buying a vowel for the food marketer. “Wheel of Fortune is America’s favorite game show and Banquet is America’s favorite frozen dinner. So, right off the bat, we thought it was the perfect marriage for two brands,” says Michelle Scott, consumer promotions manager at ConAgra.

ConAgra research found customers love game shows. “We’ve done similar promotions, but not on this scale with a nationally recognized partner like Wheel of Fortune,” Scott adds.

Even for Wheel, the most-watched show in syndication, getting that kind of exposure before the beginning of a new season is a big deal, says Harry Friedman, the show’s executive producer.

“We want to remind everyone dinnertime is Wheel of Fortune time,” Friedman says. “A promotion like this brings viewers to the show, and it also brings some lapsed viewers back to the show. I think when they come back, they’re going to find a fresher show filled with a lot of fun and a lot of play-along and we’re extremely proud of the fact that we are still considered appointment viewing in a lot of households.”

The shows were recently shot and Friedman says there will be a Banquet wedge added to the Wheel; contestants who land on it will get food and a little extra spending money to go with it. Banquet expects fans to find that it’s part of the banter between stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White that week. “Actually, there something that’s said by Pat that was not planned at all, but it fits right into the promotion,” Friedman says.

Doing a promotion with a packaged goods company like ConAgra is unusual for Wheel. Most of its promotion activity has been for travel and experiences that can be awarded as prizes. Last season, for example, viewers watching Wheel of Fortune Hawaii Week, a promotion with Hilton Hotels, could enter for a chance to win a trip and join Pat and Vanna as they taped the show in the islands.

But Friedman says Wheel has been very careful to ensure that these kinds of promotions don’t overwhelm the audience. “The game is still the foundation of the show and we want viewers to enjoy it,” he says. “Once we get to the point where the show is airing, it’s the culmination of the promotion. So at that point we’re not asking the viewer to do anything other than enjoy the show and watch for their special puzzle that hopefully they’ve collected over the previous five or six weeks.”


CBS is serious about getting what it’s calling a programming fee from its affiliates. Last week, the Tiffany Network said it will move its affiliation in Indianapolis to Tribune Media’s WTTV from LIN Media’s WISH, ending a 58-year relationship. The reason: LIN wasn’t willing to cough up more than 50% of the retrans payments it gets from cable and satellite operators to CBS, while CBS wanted a figure that represented all of the value the net brings to the station—including ad sales during primetime, sports broadcasts including Colts NFL games and retrans.

“Our first choice will always be the incumbent,” said Ray Hopkins, CBS president of television networks distribution. “Tribune saw value that we [agreed] with. We came to an agreement there and the incumbent, to this point, has not stepped up.”

CBS expects retrans and reverse comp revenue to hit $2 billion by 2020. Some stations, like WISH, have not begun paying retrans fees yet.

CBS’ deals with other LIN stations and Gray Television expire Dec. 31.

RBC Capital analyst David Bank said CBS is taking a hard line with stations: “In many markets, if a local affiliate balks at CBS’ demands, the affiliate must recognize other stations might step up to take over…at less attractive terms.”