Fox leads way on summer originals

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Fox has no intention of having a sleepy re-run kind of summer, as it prepares to unleash a barrage of promotional hype around six shows debuting in June. It's all part of Fox's vow to keep the lights on year-round.

For the six new shows next month, Fox plans on-air blasts of marketing across network and cable channels, alliances with Burger King, MGM and Best Buy, wireless promotions with multiple cellphone carriers and links with Web sites such as, and

"We're trying to speak to the consumer in a way that's not so sell-y," says Roberta Mell, Fox exec VP-marketing. "We're looking to entertain them and reach them where they're living."

multiple tie-ins

The network will tie with outdoor sports and music festivals such as Wango Tango and Big Hoops in Venice Beach, Calif., for young-demo-targeted outreach, and summer-specific real estate like lifeguard chairs. And aiming at families, Fox has aligned with Strike Ten bowling lanes for a promotion and sweepstakes in 2,200 locations around the Andy Richter sitcom "Quintuplets." Bowlers who get five strikes might win a walk-on role on the show. Among other grassroots events are a 25-market tour of the Airstream trailer from "The Simple Life 2" and coffee carts stationed outside courthouses to promote "The Jury." Fox has also aligned with a number of wireless carriers for text-messaging promotions for "The Jury."

Broadcast networks have been known to populate their summer schedules with repeats and unaired episodes of unsuccessful shows in past years. At last week's upfront meetings with the advertising community, executives from all six major nets said they are committed to original programming year-round.

Fox has been at the forefront of that trend, months ago announcing their intent to schedule aggressively during the summer. And it has a track record of success, particularly with "The O.C.," which got a toehold during its first season and started showing a vibrant following in its second.

This year, Mell and her team have used May sweeps as a platform for upcoming sitcoms "The Simple Life 2," "Method & Red" and "Quintuplets"; dramas "North Shore" and "The Jury"; and Mark Burnett's Vegas-based unscripted show "The Casino."

As has happened in the past, the network will air the new shows multiple times during the week to try to get more sampling and fans. Because viewing levels in general are down in the summer, Fox's executive team has said it does not expect "American Idol"-like numbers.

With the full-court press, Fox is making summer feel like fall, said Catherine Stellin, VP-research at trend-consulting firm Youth Intelligence. "They're reconditioning viewers to see summer as an event," she says. "They're making it feel big."

The network also has a read on its young viewers, she believes.

"They take risks, and even if it doesn't work all the time, young viewers tend to give them credit for trying," Stellin says. "They're constantly looking at things from the viewer perspective."

Heavy promotion

Fast-food giant Burger King, taking advantage of an unpaid product placement in "The Simple Life 2," will promote the heiresses-gone-wild show with posters and other in-store signage. The show will be a key element in the DVD sampler that will be given away through Best Buy stores across the country. Best Buy plans to hype the giveaway through 55 million ad circulars.

"The Casino" will get a 12-page spread in TV Guide that contains a gambler's guide. The Golden Nugget, where the show's based, will be awash in promotion, and there will be a celebrity poker tournament for charity in L.A. in June.

Method Man and Redman, hip hop artists who star in "Method & Red," have made "Digz," a parody of "Cribs," which shows the two guys from the `hood at home in their new all-white suburban enclave. It will air on Fox, in movie theaters, on the Web and elsewhere. A DVD version will be distributed to audiences waiting to see "Soul Plane," an MGM comedy starring Method Man that opens May 28. A sweepstakes with urban radio stations gives away a shopping spree in Beverly Hills with the two rappers.

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