Seeks Network Deal for Program Showcasing New Products

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- Michael Davies, who broke the mold in producing a prime-time network game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, is looking to change the rules again when it comes to advertisers and live prime-time network TV.

A new proposed show, Live From Tomorrow, from his production company Diplomatic, is a young-skewing live variety/news/entertainment show that will showcase new products.

The twist: The plan is to run the series commercial-free.

Total product integration
Instead of traditional ads, each hour-long episode will work advertisers' products or services into variety/news segments, both live and tape. It would mark perhaps the first prime time-broadcast network show without commercials but with advertising-related content a primary part of the program.

"We wanted to create a show that would in a contextual way showcase products in a really fun and unique way so that you wouldn't need 30-second commercials whatsoever," said Matti Leshem, executive vice president of Diplomatic.

Products and services on Live won't be in the background. "We are completely up front about it," he said. "It's completely transparent."

Disney talks
Diplomatic has a first-look deal with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC for the series, which Mr. Davies plans to run for six episodes beginning next summer. ABC came first due to Mr. Davies' association with the network, where he produces Millionaire. Mr. Davies was also a longtime executive at the network, and had been instrumental in producing a number of best-TV-commercial specials for ABC.

No network has signed on yet, but Mr. Leshem said he has definite interest from two broadcast networks, along with a number of advertisers he wouldn't identify. While there will not be network commercials on the program, local station advertising time would still run, as required by most network/station affiliation agreements.

Live from Tomorrow will also have an Internet hook. For example, a consumer eyeing a hot, new car that has yet to hit the market can register online for more information and enter a contest related to the show. The new car will then be discussed on the program and driven live to the winner's home, where the person talks about why they deserve the new automobile.

Product plot lines
One feature under consideration would show the juxtaposition of a comedian from a U.S. inner-city enrolling as a summer intern at a Scandanavian office of a global cell phone company. The sponsor would be that cell phone company. The show, and its Internet component, would also have segments on movies, music, television, sex, style and technology, to name a few categories.

Targeting the 18 to 34 year old demographic is key, said Mr. Leshem, since young adults are trend setters, searching for cool, new products. "Whether it's a new pair of jeans, or the next band, or the next cell phone, it's the same attitude that a young person has. If you can deliver a really entertaining format, in a pretty compelling way, that's important to the advertisers."

'No clutter'
Live From Tomorrow will not work for every advertiser, said Mr. Leshem. "There are some things that won't be organic to the show. I don't know if a potato chip [company] would be right."

Diplomatic is looking to sell two premiere sponsorships, and four other sponsors. "There is going to be no clutter at all," he said.

Live From Tomorrow is planning on structuring a "new financial" model where the network, advertisers and other partners would have a stake in the show. If that doesn't work, Mr. Leshem said, the show could be done as a "time buy." In a typical time buy, a producer buys program time on a network and then sells all the advertising time.

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