In an unorthodox move, the News Corp. broadcast network will on Nov. 23 show a two-hour "prequel" to the regular season of "24," slated to begin after the new year. At present, the program is commanding what are perhaps the highest prices for any program on the fall schedule, snaring between $500,000 and $600,000 for a 30-second commercial, according to people familiar with the situation. The costliest ongoing program, NBC's "Sunday Night Football," brings in an average of $434,792, while the next, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," commands $326,685, according to Ad Age's annual fall TV pricing survey.
'Event' status justifies price
Media buyers think the high price is justified. "This is kind of its own little event. It's different," said Nicole Romanik, VP-director of national broadcast at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative, which has two clients in the show. Running a "movie" in advance of a series' regular season is unusual, she added: "I don't think there's any precedent for it."
The stakes are high for Bauer and his backers. "24" hasn't been on the air since the spring 2007, and that last season was viewed by critics, fans and even some TV executives as not being among its best. Meanwhile, the drama remains a crucial element of Fox's spring season, along with "American Idol," and typically helps the network garner good ratings that give it a boost in the upfront ad-sales marketplace. The program also attracts a high-income audience.
Initiative has placed Nikon in the two-hour movie, known as "24: Redemption." Hyundai will also run ads and will have two cars, the Genesis and the Santa Fe, woven into the program. Sprint is on board in the two-hour film as well, according to a person familiar with the situation. Already, Fox has begun promoting "Redemption" -- and the fact that it features "the all-new Hyundai Genesis" -- during baseball playoffs. The network is also likely to use the World Series to draw attention to the prequel. Hyundai vehicles will appear during the regular series as well, said Tom Siebert, an Initiative spokesman.
"24" faces a situation not unlike that of programs such as ABC's "Pushing Daisies" or NBC's "Chuck." Those shows had their runs truncated by a writers strike that severely crimped the 2007-08 TV season. Although several "24" episodes had been filmed for this past season, Fox opted not to run them, thinking that fans would be upset if they were left hanging because of a work stoppage. Bringing these programs back presents a unique challenge -- audiences have some awareness of them, but haven't seen them in a while.
To be sure, "24" enjoys a better standing among viewers, and is a TV-screen veteran. Even so, Fox is "trying to build the viewing and bring people to the show, and remind people that 'Hey, we're still here, too,'" said Initiative's Ms. Romanik.