'Dinner and a Movie' and 'Movie and a Makeover' Are Brand Magnets

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The Deal: Since TBS can’t place brands within its weekend lineup of movies, it’s created original brand-friendly interstitial programming around the movies, instead.

The Result: “Dinner and a Movie” and “Movie and a Makeover” have become a major branded entertainment boon for the network in which brands like Kraft, Chrysler and Rolaids get exposure where there previously wouldn’t have been opportunities.

NEW YORK -- TBS’s “Dinner and a Movie” was one of Turner Entertainment’s first stabs at branded entertainment and more than a decade later it’s as big of a brand magnet as ever.
More than a decade after it was launched, 'Dinner and a Movie' has proved to be a gold mine for TBS.

The latest “Dinner and a Movie” showing of “Rush Hour” and “Rush Hour 2,” co-hosted by comedian Jay Mohr, will feature the Chrysler Crossfire SRT6 Roadster, new Kraft Natural Cheese Crumbles, and Rolaids Soft Chews when it airs on March 17.

Launched in 1995

Launched in 1995, “Dinner and a Movie” is a series of themed interstitials in which regular hosts Paul Gilmartin and Janet Varney are often joined by a celebrity like Mr. Mohr who cook a themed menu that ties in with the movie that is being broadcast. The interstitials act as bumpers to and from commercial breaks in the movie and incorporate a series of brands into the programming. (Both Chrysler and Kraft are returning “Dinner and a Movie” brands.)

This Friday the hosts will serve up some slow-cooked Asian style beef short ribs and a bass dish, called “Jackie’s Cracked Ribs and “Chris’ Big Mouth Bass” (referring to “Rush Hour” stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker), with the meal preparations filmed in front of a live audience at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami.

Additionally, TBS has set up a micro-site with links to sponsor home pages as the headquarters for the deal’s sweepstakes component, where viewers can enter to win a trip to Miami and stay at the Mandarin Oriental.

Double-duty interstitials

Because the movies TBS airs -- upcoming runs include “Jurassic Park III,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” “Swordfish” and “While You Were Sleeping” -- are in the post-syndication window, the only opportunities for branded entertainment would be digital insertion or branded interstitials. But branded interstitials do double duty for the network. They combat an ugly problem in cable -- high numbers of commercial minutes. TBS runs about three minutes per break and about 4.2 pods per hour. By creating compelling content to open and close the pods, TBS hopes to retain viewers through the breaks.

“Integration is just one element of our programming partnerships,” Linda Yaccarino, executive VP-general manager of ad sales and marketing at Turner Entertainment, told Madison & Vine. “Our goal is to enhance the viewer experience while offering our advertisers comprehensive ways to reach their consumers.”

TBS, which three years ago adopted the tagline “Very Funny” and has subsequently lowered its median age from 40 to 36 with comedies such as “Friends” and “Sex and the City,” airs movies every Friday night. In the same fashion as “Dinner and a Movie,” the network has three other hosted movie showcases, including “Movie and a Makeover,” on Saturday nights, which breaks up movies with a showcase of makeovers from makeup and fashion to home design and landscaping, and “Movie Extra” and “Weekend Extra,” that embed advertisers.

Kraft one of the biggest advertisers

Kraft has been one of the network’s biggest advertisers during its hosted showcases, Ms. Yaccarino said, and TBS developed a custom summer promotion with Kraft last year, in which the company received exclusive placement within five episodes. Kraft product was woven into the hosted storylines.

When it comes to placements, TBS said that it can integrate not only marketers in the food sector but advertisers from other key categories like retail and restaurants. The number of integrated sponsors typically depends on the storyline of the films.

With Turner’s recent emphasis on original programming, the number of integration opportunities is expected to expand; Ms. Yaccarino recently added to her team by hiring Laura Del Greco away from Warner Bros. Music Group.

Either way, TBS hasn’t had a hard time selling its movie showcases to advertisers. Ratings for “Dinner and a Movie” are up 11% among 18- to 49-year-olds from September through February vs. a year ago. The show averages 927,000 viewers among that demo. Among 18- to 34-year-olds, it’s up 9% over the same period, averaging 458,000 viewers.

“The consistent ratings the program delivers and our returning sponsors are proof it works,” Ms. Yaccarino said. “We have been consistently sold out week after week during each quarter.”
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