All In The Family At ABC

MindShare inks framework deal with network

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% When ABC and MindShare went public with their open-ended, non-exclusive arrangement to develop and produce family-oriented scripted programming, it raised many questions.

Both parties have positioned the deal as a means to address core challenges buffeting their existing business models. MindShare hopes the deal will create alternative branding platforms for their clients as the :30 commercial delivers less while costing more.

For the Alphabet network, if the deal bears results, it could be a helpful way to remedy the money pit that is the deficit-financing model of network television.

"Our objective is to develop, create, and produce successful prime-time series programming," said Marc Goldstein, president-CEO of MindShare North America. "If there are opportunities for brand integration, they will be secondary."

MindShare's emphasis on family programming is akin to the guiding objective of the Family Friendly Programming Forum, a consortium of advertisers including Sears and Johnson & Johnson, that has had some success in funding hit shows like the WB's "Gilmore Girls" and ABC's "8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter."

According to Goldstein, Sears and Unilever are two MindShare clients who've expressed a strong interest in this opportunity with ABC. "Where ABC is from a programming and branding point of view is very compatible with our advertisers," said Goldstein. "They've developed a schedule of programs that's very family oriented. We're on the same wave length."

While ABC's firmly placed its bets on the family programming horse, it may strike many as a curious move on the part of MindShare to focus on a network that has struggled mightily over the past several years to generate a consistent stream of scripted hits after its highly successful "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," an unscripted property, petered out.

"It's sort of the opposite of a first-look deal," said Alex Wallau, ABC Television president. "MindShare is going to the creative community, the studios and independent producers, to identify programming that is compelling and is a good environment for their brands." As previously reported in Madison+Vine, Goldstein retained former CBS exec Peter Tortorici earlier this year to scout opportunities in Hollywood.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% The deal was driven on the network side by Susan Lyne, president of ABC Entertainment and not by the sales team. Lyne said there are currently no properties in the pipeline but she was buoyant about the possibilities of MindShare getting more entrenched in the programming business. "I think it's a great way to get a look at some fresh ideas in programming."

"These deals will definitely become more commonplace although one of the many challenges will be in determining how the client and agency share in any profit participation and rights ownership based on where the creative and financing come from," said Paul Bricault, senior-VP of William Morris Consulting.

Both Goldstein and Wallau stressed to Madison+Vine that the deal was executed largely to address these issues.

Wallau said the agreement "sets up a framework for a relationship, which is a complicated one in terms of participation in the investment in shows and the participation in the backend and success of them. This is something that you could do on a one-off basis but you'd have to go through this kind of extensive negotiation that we went through to set up the framework every time."

One Hollywood studio exec, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, pointed to the repercussions of this deal on Madison Avenue. "It'll be interesting to see the dynamics within the ad agency world in terms of the competing champions of the 30-second spot and those pushing for more alternative branding."

Another studio exec saw this deal as a positive development. "This new framework that the two sides have worked out is another indication of television going back to the future. Broadcasters, advertisers, and producers will continue to seek new ways to work together in the face of the rapid changes in the TV landscape," Perry Simon, president of Viacom Productions said.

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