The "multiplatform convergence content sponsorships," as the network describes them, are priced between $500,000 and $1 million, and are linked to upcoming special-event programming on Discovery's myriad cable networks. Bill McGowan, exec VP-advertising sales for Discovery Networks U.S., said the deals "marry advertising on TV and on the Web page for the advertiser."
He said that although many networks claim to offer convergence, Discovery's program goes much further. It "will be the standard for the industry in a few years."
Discovery aims to sell 30 packages over the next year in which each advertiser will get a major integrated Internet/TV sponsorship in a special event Discovery show, such as the recently aired "Raising the Mammoth."
Typically, Internet/TV deals deliver banner ads on a network's Web site along with a straight media buy on the network. But Discovery's convergence package -- available across all its networks including Travel Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and Discovery -- involves special TV creative that will tout the advertiser's own Web site.
The TV spots will also promote the show itself; a Webcast of the program; Discovery's Web site; and the advertiser's Web site. That degree of cross-promotion is something few networks offer now, according to Discovery executives, who noted that driving traffic to their Web sites is a priority for many multimedia TV advertisers.
In addition, at the beginning of the Discovery show purchased, an advertiser will get a sponsorship credit that will likely say, "This TV program and Webcast are brought to you by . . . " Four to five commercials from the advertiser will also run in the show.
Discovery said its convergence sponsors will also get additional off-air exposure in hundreds of nationwide Discovery Network retail stores, which will run promotional tape loops hyping the programming, sponsorship and sponsors' sites. Some 75 million customers pass through those stores in the course of a year.
Gary Carr, senior VP-managing director of network programming for Initiative Media, New York, said an Internet component is becoming an increasingly important part of his clients' TV media buys. He added that many networks are more aggressively pricing those packages.
Until recently, Internet ads had been thrown into the network TV mix as added-value incentives. Now many TV networks are actively pushing Internet/TV media deals looking for an added revenue stream.
And that's raising questions among advertisers. "There is a trend towards packaging all the media opportunities that a company has," said Doug Seay, senior VP-national broadcast at Publicis & Hal Riney, New York.
"With all these combo opportunities, is [a convergence media package] a better thing for the advertiser or the media company? If the media company wants to offer [convergence] at a discount, that's a good thing. But if they offer it as a premium, I don't think it makes any sense."
Discovery's integrated Internet/TV sponsorships will be offered for several programs in the upcoming TV season, including "Inside the Space Station" on Discovery Channel; "The 70s: Bell Bottoms & Boogie Shoes" on TLC; and "Call of the Wild" on Animal Planet.
The convergence buy covers all airings of the Discovery network show purchased. Discovery's special 1- or 2-hour event programs can run six to eight times in the promotional window covered by the buy, generally a week.
According to Discovery, the entire run of an average special-event program can accrue 5 to 8 rating points from all its telecasts.
Some go higher. Last month's "Raising the Mammoth" on Discovery Channel scored a 7.8 rating on March 14. But if all its airings were totaled throughout the month, the program would have earned an 18 rating.