NBC Eager to Lead Pack in Branded-Entertainment Arena

Puts Nissan in 'Heroes'; Forms Bravo Media; Gives Sci-Fi Own M&V Guru

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NEW YORK -- NBC may have finished another season fourth place in the ratings, but it's eager to lead the pack in branded entertainment. Just as the network announced the first major upfront deal with Group M (to the tune of $800 million to $1 billion) would include branded-entertainment opportunities, the Peacock also went wide with the news of its partnership with Nissan for the second season of "Heroes," its breakout hit from this year.

Nissan will be the exclusive sponsor of the season premiere of "Heroes," and the automaker's Rogue model will appear in the episode.

The deal, brokered by Nissan's media agency, OMD, will consist of an exclusive season-premiere sponsorship, complete with an appearance by the Nissan Rogue in the episode when it's driven by a main character; a "roadblock" sponsorship on NBC's Rewind that will make the automaker the sole advertiser on the net's broadband player (a first for Rewind); and additional sponsorships of the "Heroes" music video, wireless WAP site and first-season DVD.

"We're committed to doing business with our clients in ways that extend beyond the 30-second spot and are thrilled to join forces again with Nissan to build on our successful season-one partnership," NBC sales chief Mike Pilot said in a statement. "This deal exemplifies the concept of having an 'upstream relationship' with our clients and shows just what can be achieved when the clients and creative teams come together early in the process."

'Top Chef' knives
And there's even more action on the cable side of NBC. Bravo now has its own Bravo Media, a global company that will push the cable brand in areas such as publishing (a "Top Chef" cookbook comprising recipes from all three seasons), merchandising ("Top Chef" knives, "Work Out" gym wear) and gaming (Bravo to Go's "Top Chef" mobile game). Additional initiatives in radio, experiential events and management for Bravo talent are also coming.

"We've evolved into a multimedia company with a strong, clear brand, and are organizing our business for the future," said Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick. "While TV is at our core and will always be the heart of what we do, Bravo Media extends that content and brand to every platform to suit our passionate consumers' lifestyles."

Even Sci-Fi is getting in the branded-entertainment mix with the appointment of Bravo Marketing Director Shari Weisenberg to the newly created position of VP-strategic marketing, a role that will have her overseeing cable and online revenues as well as working to bring more branded integrations to the fold.

Brands will have a place
Though futuristic shows such as "Battlestar Galactica" and "Dresden Files" don't necessarily lend themselves to featuring today's brands, Ms. Weisenberg said as the programming becomes more "Earth-based," there will be more opportunities for advertisers to get involved. She pointed to the reality series "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" and the forthcoming "Tin Man" and "Flash Gordon" updates as examples of such programming.

Since Mr. Pilot's appointment in December, NBC's cable arm has beefed up its sales staff by adding Susan Malfa as Bravo's first dedicated sales exec to relieve some of the duties currently handled by Marianne Gambanelli and Mark Miller.

Ms. Weisenberg said her duties have evolved from being marketing-based to more sales-oriented, all leading up to her current gig. "As the TV business is really changing, it's important to be content-driven from a strategic and revenue point of view," she said. "Our digital and traditional sales marketing are under one umbrella, so we're really creating that [identity] synergistically with our branding."
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