NEW YORK -- The 30-minute sitcom has been a tricky vessel for broadcast networks to navigate ever since "Friends" went off the air in 2004, but what about on cable? TBS was faced with this very question going into the 2006 upfront when it announced plans to introduce a scripted series into its hugely successful lineup of reruns of "Seinfeld," "Sex & the City," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the aforementioned "Friends."
|Photo: Andrew Eccles|
|Online is where the real numbers kicked in for the integration, with Match reporting a 14% increase in registrations for its site and a 66% spike in brand recalls from the linear network.
Steve Kalb, senior VP-broadcast media director at Mullen's Media Hub in Boston, successfully tied his clients at Match.com into the "Sex & the City" reruns over the past few years. So when he heard the development pitch for the female-friendly "My Boys" last April, he saw an opportunity for Match.com to come on board for a unique integration.
"Turner was a great network for Match," said Mr. Kalb, whose agency is part of Interpublic Group of Cos. "It was a demographically balanced buy for adults 25-54, and the indexes against mass-qualitative audience were right on."
TBS, too, was looking for a specific launch partner to serve as a springboard for its first foray into 30-minute scripted comedy, and Match seemed like a perfect, well, match for its launch plans.
"Obviously, the challenging thing about doing branded integration is when it's not so organic or natural to a program," said Linda Yaccarino, exec VP, Turner sales and marketing. "But with 'My Boys,' the lead, Jordana Spiro, is a woman in a guys' world, so coming together with [Match] to launch the show was giving the viewer a more comprehensive experience."
The show had a successful six-episode run in December, premiering to a 1.2 household rating and keeping a majority of that audience throughout, making it the No. 1 original sitcom on cable.
But online is where the real numbers kicked in, with Match reporting a 14% increase in registrations for its site and a 66% spike in brand recalls from the linear network. By the time "My Boys" returns for additional episodes this summer (Turner says sometime around July), both brands will have come out stronger, even though the partnership with Match will not continue. Instead, Mr. Kalb sees the digital company moving beyond its status as a quarterly advertiser, something the deal with Turner helped make possible.
"This could be the springboard of doing something by getting Match involved with the traditional upfront and then the calendar year with the rest of the market, with 'My Boys' being the catalyst," he said.
Ms. Yaccarino, for her part, will continue the branded integrations for "My Boys" with Chili's this summer, which will build upon the success the restaurant brand has already had with Turner in the broadband space.
"Our brand team sits with their brand team developing custom contents that will enhance the viewer experience. Whether they're enjoying 'My Boys' on TBS or on TBS.com, you get a great show association with Chili's no matter what. It really is another example of how not beholden or less-reliant we are on the upfront here."