The Walt Disney network will run 21 pages of advertising talking up both its programs and its overall brand, and will include a DVD in the issue slated to hit newsstands and New York and Los Angeles subscriber mailboxes. The issue is expected to arrive on newsstands Aug. 21.
Every year, starting at the end of August, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox begin to let loose with a range of promotional stunts, ranging from unique radio commercials and ads at supermarket deli counters to T-shirts and tchotchkes delivered to reporters. While the stakes are always high -- about 80% or more of new TV shows fail -- there's even more pressure on the big networks this go-round: Ratings are eroding at a faster pace due to the abundance of choices available on cable and the web, not to mention increasing consumer use of digital video recorders. And this season the networks have fewer new programs to hype, largely because of a crippling writers strike that put the kibosh on this past spring's development season.
Successful in past
ABC's TV Guide technique has been successful for others. In 2005, Target purchased all the ad pages in the Aug. 22 issue of Condé Nast's New Yorker magazine. Rather than running traditional print ads, however, the retailer commissioned pieces of original artwork, all of which used Target's bull's-eye logo, colored in red and white. The venture raised eyebrows and even defied convention by technically violating rules established at the time by the American Society of Magazine Editors regarding the separation of editorial and advertising.
Last year at about this time, ABC tried another venture that made use of TV Guide staffers and also pushed the envelope. The network, whose hit shows include "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," made available to affiliates three different half-hour specials that offered looks at new fall programming. The twist? The specials featured editorial staffers from Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide and People offering insight or comments on the programs being presented.
Consumers can expect a rash of such stuff in the weeks to come. Their TV shows are costly, and low viewership often hurts a program's chances for syndication and other after-market possibilities, such as a DVD release. Just like an airline, the circus or a concert promoter, TV companies are forced to get as many people into seats as possible in order to keep the show on the road.