"A number of the agencies and advertisers have started to connect with us about specific business, and we've begun a number of discussions," Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, told Advertising Age in a brief interview yesterday.
Finding common ground
NBC held meetings with buyers and clients in early April, in the belief that advertisers need earlier looks at programming in order to forge closer ties to specific programs and themes. The network hopes to foster more commercial concepts that are "customized" to individual moments on the schedule, and, as such, perhaps more interesting and relevant to viewers.
NBC's talks with marketers aren't the only ones taking place, to be certain. Networks for years have held spring development meetings designed to give advertisers a taste of programming planned for the fall.
But Mr. Silverman's willingness to talk about this year's early to-and-fro signals how networks are trying to change the usual spring dance between their ad and programming executives and the marketers that sponsor their shows. With more clients shifting ad dollars to digital venues, there is additional call for advertising that is tied more directly to content. Plotting those ideas requires more time than negotiations that usually take place in May and June, when advertisers typically put down more than $9 billion on the fall TV schedule. This year's writers strike has left the networks with fewer new programs to bring to the table -- and a need to be more flexible.
Mr. Silverman said advertisers expressed interest in lining up their properties around particular demographics, themes, times of the year and show concepts. "We are then building out promotional elements, PR elements, integration elements and digital elements, and that's what we are working on," he said.
Down to business
After starting discussions with advertisers and agencies with its April presentations, Mr. Silverman said NBC is "going to start locking in pricing" over the next four to six weeks and that process would really begin in earnest during the traditional upfront market.
News Corp.'s Fox and Walt Disney's ABC have also been having early discussions with advertisers, according to executives at those networks. Peter Liguori, chairman-entertainment of Fox, was in New York visiting ad-buying shops and chatting about the network's fall outlook while NBC was holding its early programming presentations.