Advertisers, Media Left in the Dark About New '90210'

To Build Buzz, CW Won't Screen Series Before Premiere -- but Will It Turn Away Buyers?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The CW is taking the unusual step of not screening its buzzed-about remake of "Beverly Hills 90210" for advertisers or the media in advance of the program's premiere.
90210 cast
90210 cast Credit: Frank Ockenfels/ The CW

"The CW and our studio partner, CBS Paramount Network Television, have made the strategic marketing decision not to screen '90210' for any media in advance of its premiere," the network said in a statement. "We're not hiding anything ... simply keeping a lid on '90210' until 9/02, riding the curiosity and anticipation into premiere night, and letting all our constituents see it at the same time."

A CW spokesman said the policy would apply to media buyers and advertisers as well.

Generating buzz for the retooled teen series is of primary importance to the still-fledgling network, which is contending with anemic ratings and rumors of frustration by one of its corporate parents. The CW is owned by CBS Corp. and Time Warner; and while CBS seems to appreciate the netlet, Time Warner divisions including Warner Bros. and Turner Entertainment have been devising new ventures -- including streaming old WB network programs online and premiering high-quality dramas this fall on cable outlet TNT -- that would seem competitive with the CW.

Challenges ahead
The CW is also heading into the fall season having given up its Sunday nights to a third-party programmer. What's more, its ad-sales chief, Bill Morningstar, has accepted a job to run the new Major League Baseball cable network.

Media buyers say they would like the CW to stick around, as the network reaches an otherwise tough-to-find demographic: young women and teens. Already, the CW has been flogging "Gossip Girl" with posters using quotes from press outlets about how tawdry and shocking the program can be. One poster even uses a negative quote from the Parents Television Council advocacy organization.

The CW has tested the idea of making its programs available on a limited basis in order to drive viewers to the TV screen. Last season, the network declined to stream the last five episodes of "Gossip Girl" online in the hopes of goosing TV ratings. It's a challenge with which several networks have had to wrangle: Younger viewers are more apt to watch TV shows online or with mobile devices, but such actions do little to boost ratings, and ratings enable networks to drive ad prices.

While not making the show available to the media could raise interest, leaving advertisers and media buyers out of the equation might be a trickier feat to accomplish. Buyers typically like to see the type of content their millions of ad dollars go to support. Some even like to screen individual episodes in case an off-color word or randy situation contained within the episode might draw the attention of critics or consumer groups.
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