Magazine article Variety

Promos Hit Viewers from Every Angle

Magazine article Variety

Promos Hit Viewers from Every Angle

Article excerpt

TO GET VIEWERS ROUSED ABOUT a series set to launch this fall, NBC opened a door to the future, letting select TV aficionados don a trendy Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset and pretend they were on the set of the program itself.

The show? "The Voice." Maybe you've heard of it.

As radical changes in TV viewing habits transform the business, networks are altering the playbook they use to promote their shows. They're emphasizing not just new shows but returning programs as well. They're working up strategies to reach viewers who skip live airings of their shows. And they're experimenting with methods that acknowledge a good chunk of potential viewers need to be reached through means other than TV.

"It's incredibly challenging now," says Laurel Bernard, Fox Broadcasting's exec veep of marketing.

This fall's crop of promos draws attention to a wider array of shows - even those that debuted successfully in seasons past. CBS has incorporated actors from "The Big Bang Theory" into its launch effort for "Thursday Night Football." NBC launched a campaign for the second season of "The Blacklist" that puts ads on the back covers of popular magazines, and makes each ad look like it's the front cover of the periodical in which it appears. Fox wants to tubthump the second season of "Sleepy Hollow" as well as the shift of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" to Sundays. ABC has crafted a promotion for its entire Thursday-night lineup that prods viewers to binge-watch "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," as well as new entry "How to Get Away With Murder," all from creator Shonda Rhimes.

Returning shows have been promoted before, but there's more reason now to highlight them. "The world is more cluttered," says Alan Cohen, co-founder of Giant Spoon, a marketing agency that crafts TV launch campaigns. He adds that audiences can discover a program later in its life, thanks to Netflix. With TV networks growing more dependent on revenue from second-run sales of current lineups, promoting even a fifth season of a mainstay takes on importance, notes Cohen, whose agency helped with NBC's "Voice" effort.

The networks are even more aware of new dynamics when it comes to their freshman crop of shows, about 80% of which are likely to fail. Fox is being particularly aggressive in launching "Gotham," a drama about the early years of police Det. James Gordon, destined for bigger things one day with Batman.

One of the most highly anticipated new shows, it's nonetheless slated to go up against the juggernaut of "Monday Night Football." So the network is buying time on local cable systems during the ESPN showcase to remind football viewers they can catch "Gotham" later, and targeting radio ads to those who watch Monday rivals like "The Big Bang Theory" or "The Voice," Bernard says. …

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