February 11, 2012

The Sked: PROMO WATCH — Of Valentine’s Day and The Voice

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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>With four days of mid-season promo monitoring under our belts (Monday-Thursday), the top five (or so) priorities for each broadcast network are listed in the table below.  ABC spent the bulk of its promotional time supporting important current series in the February ratings sweep: Revenge has been the #1 priority as the network aims to push the Hamptons series out of the mid-2 rating area toward a high-2 or maybe even a 3.  The promos state “it’s never too late” to get hooked.  History indicates it is extremely difficult to convince an audience to join a serialized drama in progress, but ABC clearly believes it has the goods.  Plus, genuine hit Modern Family airs an hour before Revenge, and all they have to do is persuade a few tenths of rating point of the hit comedy’s audience to stick around at 10 pm and suddenly they can win the Wednesday at 10 pm hour.  Not surprisingly, Modern Family itself was the #2 priority (Greg Kinnear guest starring this week and Valentine’s Day next week).  Guest stars Kim Kardashian and NASCAR’s Tony Stewart fueled promotion for Last Man Standing, while Cougar Town made the top five as ABC pushes its return next week.  New drama GCB (Good Christian Bitches) actually ranked #6 (tied with promotion for next week’s Grey’s Anatomy/ Private Practice crossover event), but those two shows were virtually tied for #5 so we extended the list for ABC.  GCB looks loud and colorful and brash and tacky in the promos, complete with silly rhyming songs.  It’s either a hit or a complete bomb — nothing in between.  Finally, we only saw the spot once in Grey’s Anatomy, but a decent 30-second promo for Scandal (also from Shonda Rhimes) aired, an early taste of what should be a significant campaign for the early-April drama starring Kerry Washington.

NBC took some time for a victory lap — promos for The Voice (#4 priority this week) noted “70 million” people have seen the show, which is now the “#1 singing competition show.”  War has been declared, and let the sniping and bitching begin in NBC and FOX promos and in press interviews.  The 70 million claim is certainly a “total audience” stat, the number of viewers 2 or older who watched at least a few minutes of the post-Super Bowl telecast Sunday or the two-hour time period premiere Monday.  In addition, the Monday average audience rating for The Voice exceeded both American Idol telecast ratings this week.  FOX will point out that The Voice ratings will probably settle in coming weeks, when a fairer comparison can be made between the regular performance of the two shows.  Promos for Smash took a less shrill approach and leaned on the critical reception for the show in classy spots that singing and little to no voice-over.  Awake (#2) promotion is well underway, hammering away at the concept of the parallel worlds of the protagonist (which world is a dream?).  While interesting conceptually, the promos do not make the series particularly compelling.  With few current series in good enough shape to deserve heavy promotional support, NBC continued to play for the future by also pushing Fashion Star.  Remember, you not only get to watch Elle MacPherson, Jessica Simpson and Nicole Ritchie but also can buy the clothes you see designed in stores the next day. 

CBS was more like ABC in strategy: promote shows coming up in the next few days.  NCIS received support for its 200th episode, and NCIS Los Angeles received (for CBS) an extremely high level of support during the landmark NCIS episode (promos in almost every break, complete with “coming up in X minutes” voice-overs and graphics).  By the way, the 200th NCIS episode was unintentionally funny, providing more laughs than many comedies: the inferior Matrix-like, slow-mo bullet headed for Mark Harmon, the ham-handed device to look back at his life and the previous 199 episodes.  Not surprisingly, The Grammys is getting its fair share of promotion, and the longer spots for the music awards show were often followed by short-length spots for 60 Minutes, featuring an interview with singer Adele.  

FOX spent most of its time propping up the sagging American Idol (the move from auditions to Hollywood week and the drama associated with a collapsing contestant).  Alcatraz also received significant support, but the promos continue to be absolutely generic, re-selling the show’s premise and giving no specific reason to watch this week.  Glee, like Idol, is another declining asset gobbling up promotion time.  Shockingly, the New Girl-related “Hey Girl” Interactive Music Video project online received enough mentions to land in the top five priorities.  The spots were short but plentiful enough to add up to a significant investment in time.  Online activity and social media extensions are clearly important to each network’s future (hell, even CBS put “#ncis200” on screen right after the NCIS episode aired to harness the tweeting power of the web-savvy NCIS audience).  But wouldn’t it better to use that time to promote next week’s episode of New Girl, one of the few assets on the FOX schedule with upside?

                     Promo Watch
             Top Five Promotional Priorities
                     (with ties)
                    Feb 6-9, 2012

     ABC                            CBS
     Revenge                        NCIS Los Angeles
     Modern Family                  Person of Interest
     Cougar Town                    The Grammys
     Once Upon a Time               The Mentalist
     Last Man Standing              NCIS
     Grey’s/Private Crossover

     FOX                            NBC
     American Idol                  Smash
     Alcatraz                       Awake
     Glee                           Fashion Star
     Hey Girl Interactive           The Voice
      Music Video (New Girl)        Who Do You Think You Are?


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."