"Passions," set to bow July 5, is planning to sell through the Internet such products as bedding or clothes worn by its characters, said Susan Lee, NBC's senior VP-daytime programs. Another idea is to sell "potions," she said, tied to the character of Tabitha Lenox (played by Juliet Mills), who will bring a mystic, supernatural element to the show.
MERCHANDISING STEPPING UP
The theory is far from supernatural. As networks seek additional revenue, they are stepping up merchandising beyond the soaps and well beyond the traditional tape or sound track of a program.
"Passions" might be taking a Web page from Aaron Spelling Productions, which runs a site, www.asseenin.com, to funnel visitors to sites that sell merchandise featured on the producer's shows. The practice also has been honed by ABC-TV's "All My Children" and "General Hospital," CBS-TV's "The Guiding Light" and Columbia TriStar Television's "Dawson's Creek," which recently inked a deal with American Eagle Outfitters.
"These efforts, done properly, increase the cachet and heat of a show among certain target groups, and that should benefit all the advertisers associated with that property," said Bob Brennan, chief operating officer, Starcom Worldwide, Chicago. If networks "can make money from merchandising, it will take some pressure off advertising as their primary source of revenue."
One of the earliest merchandising practitioners is ABC, which in 1997 marketed a book ostensibly written by "All My Children's" Ericka Kane Marick (Susan Lucci), sold through bookstores. It's since followed with tomes purportedly penned by other soap characters.
"General Hospital," another ABC property, embellished a recent storyline about a Nurses Ball and now hawks T-shirts like those worn by characters on the show.
CBS and soapmeister Procter & Gamble Co. are offering viewers a bracelet similar to one given to a character on "Guiding Light."
Under its deal, American Eagle will outfit characters in Columbia TriStar's "Dawson's Creek." The actors will model the clothes in catalogs, in-store ads and Web sites. The deal replaces a similar one between Tri-Star and J. Crew Group.
WB affiliates that carry "Dawson's Creek" and have newscasts may air pseudo-news features to tout the series and American Eagle, The Wall Street Journal reported.
As these merchandising efforts become more elaborate and involve a show's editorial to greater and greater degrees, some wonder whether a program's creative integrity will become compromised.
The networks "want to drive more viewers to the shows with these efforts, not drive them away," said William Croasdale, office of the president at Western Initiative Media Worldwide, West Hollywood, Calif. "They know that's what's ultimately going to keep advertisers happy, so I don't have a fear that they'll