Branded Fare hardly the first CBS priority

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Marketers will be looking at Martha Stewart's newest rival as the first big debut and opportunity from the new CBS Corp.'s syndication units.

The hourlong strip featuring Rachael Ray is CBS Corp.'s only new first-run syndication show for next fall. "Rachael Ray," starring the Friend of Oprah/Food Network personality, would seem to offer the perfect recipe for branded-entertainment deals, but so far King World Productions has warded off most advances.

Terry Wood, president-creative affairs and development for King World and CBS Paramount Domestic Television, paints this as a deliberate decision, and one unlikely to be revisited before the show gets its sea legs. "I don't think it would be too smart to start the show with our focus on anything but the content," she says.

If and when Ms. Ray's show goes the branded-entertainment route, it will likely be done in a minimalist manner. "I think advertisers would prefer it that way, frankly," Ms. Wood adds.

Such an approach comes as no surprise from King World. Oprah's Pontiacs notwithstanding, the syndicator's elite properties have been more reluctant to embrace such arrangements than other content providers.

But media buyers are hoping for more marketing opportunities from CBS Corp.'s King World and CBS Paramount Domestic TV.

Where there seems to be some frustration is in coordinating branded-entertainment deals-specifically, in the syndicators' seeming reluctance to proceed as briskly as marketers might like. Such deals are "incredibly time-consuming to get done," admits Donna Speciale, president-video investment and activation at MediaVest, New York.

But there's cause for optimism because the CBS Corp. syndicators have crafted some branded deals in the past. Procter & Gamble Co. has a longstanding relationship with "ET" and "The Insider" around its Crest, Olay and Pantene brands. For Unilever, CBS Paramount created a "Caress Confidant" contest in which one viewer was whisked to Los Angeles for the 2005 Emmy Awards and given the full red-carpet treatment, all of which was documented by the "ET" cameras.
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