The network, whose hit shows include "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," has made three different half-hour specials available to affiliates that offer looks at new fall programming and also feature the editors from Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide and People. The editorial staffers offer insight or comments on the programs being presented.
One of the previews surveys the network's Wednesday-night lineup, which includes "Pushing Daisies," one of the most highly anticipated programs of the new season; "Private Practice," a spin-off of the popular "Grey's Anatomy"; and "Dirty Sexy Money." Writers and editors from EW will discuss the shows. Another is focused on the network's Thursday-night lineup, and features editors from People looking at "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy" and the all-new "Big Shots," as well as a "sneak peek" at "Women's Murder Club." The third show spotlights TV Guide staffers examining ABC's fall comedies, such as "Samantha Who?," "Carpoolers" and "Cavemen."
ABC has run previews of this sort before, but the magazine editors' critiques bring a new element to the formula. The three shows "create positive word-of-mouth on upcoming series," said Marla Provencio, exec VP-marketing, ABC Entertainment.
Indeed, generating buzz for a new fall lineup is more crucial than ever. At a time when viewers have dozens of entertainment choices from TV, cable and the web, networks have had to test new ways to grab attention for their programs -- and not all of these methods rely on that venerable standby, running promos on the networks' own airwaves. Before last season, for instance, CBS distributed eggs that had promotional messages embedded in the shells that urged viewers to sample new programs on the so-called Tiffany network.
The bottom line is in full view as networks ramp up their use of these techniques. The shows are costly, and low viewership often hurts a program's chances for syndication and other after-market possibilities, such as a DVD release. As such, network TV executives have become less eager to let new programs take several weeks to find an audience, in the manner that the NBC hit "Seinfeld" did in a previous era.