The Biz - New reality: touting 2 seasons at once

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A plethora of marketing efforts for summer reality shows has left TV networks in a quandary when it comes to promoting fall shows.

In the past, networks tended to use summer promotional time to boost existing shows and hype new fall series. But now, with summer reality series replacing poorly rated summer reruns, networks are faced with promoting both summer shows and the coming fall slate.

"It's yin and yang," said Vince Manze, co-president of The NBC Agency, the in-house promotional agency at NBC, which has nine summer reality shows, including "For Love or Money," "Last Comic Standing" and "Fame." Given the logjam of promotional time, the General Electric Co. network has decided to run fewer fall-show promos in hopefully higher-rated summer reality shows.

"Do you promote your original programming to get a higher number? [If you do that] you don't need as many promos for your fall shows. I'd rather have one good promo in a higher-rated show, than 15 in a lower-rated show."

And there are other benefits. "You never know," said Mr. Manze. "You could get a hit."

Last week, in the finale of NBC's "For Love & Money," a "Bachelor"-like dating show, the network ran many long promotions for a number of fall shows. So far, that effort seems to have paid off. "For Love & Money" scored a Nielsen Media Research 6 rating/16 share in adults 18 to 49, making it, at the moment, the highest-rated network summer show. NBC also ran a two-minute promo for "For Love Or Money 2," which starts tonight.

The WB is using a reality show to launch its fall lineup. "Play for a Billion," a game sponsored by PepsiCo, will air Sept. 14, and executives said the AOL Time Warner network's new shows will be promoted during that program.

One veteran marketing network executive said using promos this way can help launch shows more effectively. "It's about having great creative, and having big reach," said Alan Cohen, former president of marketing at ABC. "In higher rated shows that's your best shot to get your shows sampled."

fewer, but longer, promos

TV marketing executives said News Corp.'s Fox has a similar promotional strategy, to run fewer but longer promotional spots for new fall shows. Fox also is airing a number of reality programs this summer, including "American Juniors," a spinoff of "American Idol," "Paradise Hotel," and "30 Seconds to Fame."

So far this summer, Fox's ratings are up 8% among adults 18 to 49, and Viacom's CBS is up 7% among adults in the same demographic. NBC is off 9% among adults 18 to 49, although it still leads all networks with a 4.2 rating and 12 share in the demographic.

CBS, for one, hasn't invested heavily in new summer reality shows. It's airing only three, and two aren't new-"Big Brother" and "The Amazing Race." "Cupid," is its only new reality show, is a dating/relationship series.

"The other networks have to spend more time on the air explaining what those [new] shows are about," said George Schweitzer, exec VP-marketing and communications for CBS.

After Labor Day, Mr. Schweitzer said, CBS intensifies its efforts-as most networks do-buying print, radio, and other media to get people to tune in for the show premieres.

This fall the network will again produce special free preview DVDs to be given out at Blockbuster Video, a Viacom sibling.

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