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USA Network to Market 'Modern Family' Like It's an Original Program

Rips Page From 'Psych' Playbook to Promote Expensive Acquisition

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USA Network is calling all Mofys -- its nickname for rabid "Modern Family" fans it's banking will tune in when reruns of the sitcom premiere in the fall.

Alexandra Shapiro, exec VP-marketing and digital at USA, is promoting the launch with the kind of aggressive marketing plan usually reserved for first-run shows. The 14-week push includes a robust slate of on-air, digital and on-the-ground initiatives.

Ed O'Neill and Julie Bowen, who play father-daughter Jay Pritchett and Claire Dunphy on 'Modern Family.'
Ed O'Neill and Julie Bowen, who play father-daughter Jay Pritchett and Claire Dunphy on 'Modern Family.' Credit: ABC

There's a lot riding on "Modern Family," which the network acquired in 2010 after its freshman season on ABC for a reported $1.4 million per episode. It premieres on USA Sept. 24. It will air five nights per week in prime time and serve as a platform for USA to launch its own original comedies.

The network estimates there's only 8% duplication of its audience and "Modern Family's" on ABC, and Ms. Shapiro said there's a significant opportunity to attract a chunk of the about 10 million people who watch the sitcom on broadcast. There's reason to be encouraged. "The Big Bang Theory" on TBS regularly pulls 3 million viewers in prime time, and during one week in April, seven reruns of "Big Bang" were among the top 40 cable TV shows.

While "Modern Family" has a respectable social presence, it doesn't generate the same buzz as other TV hits of its size, Ms. Shapiro said. This is something she is looking to change.

"There are limitations ... when you only have it on for a half hour a week," she said. "We think there is the opportunity when it comes on USA with the increase in frequency ... that gives us the ability to socially enable and super-charge this in a way you could never do on a broadcast platform."

USA is ripping a page from its "Psych" playbook (whose super fans are "Psychos"). In March, "Psych" allowed viewers to vote on an alternate ending for its 100th episode. The campaign generated 166,000 social mentions and 13 trending hashtags; in comparison, "Modern Family" averaged 43,000 social interactions in 2013, according to Trendrr.

The network will feature Mofys in a series of tell-all spots tentatively called "Mofy Anonymous" or "Mofy Testimonials." It will also embark on a nationwide search for the ultimate modern family.

Every episode will have a second-screen component that includes trivia, polls and custom advertising content, among other features, and during a Sunday night segment titled "Modern Family Live" it will show real-time results from second-screen engagement on-air. Participating accrues points, and those with the most at the end of the night will be featured on-air as the night's super fan.

USA will also tap the reach of its parent, NBCUniversal and Comcast, making the show a marketing priority across the company's portfolio of TV networks and digital platforms. Ms. Shapiro even sees the theme being integrated into NBC's news division, which could tackle themes related to modern families.

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