September 27, 2005

Verizon and cable television

In last Wednesday's physical copy of The Wall Street Journal, I read an article about Verizon's plan to offer 140 channels for $36.90. As Peter Grant points out in the article for WSJ, the phone companies are struggling to compete and are increasingly finding that, with the infrastructure already in place, they can offer cable to customers much cheaper in many cases than the cable companies offer them for. The company is testing in a few markets right now but are having trouble trying to get approved from state-to-state.

The argument reminded me of some media theorists' arguments that old media producers will just continually find a way to move from one product to another to stay on top of the curve, and we have constantly seen old phone service providers such as BellSouth do just that, so that, even with new technology, most of the familiar faces are still in charge.

Sony sponsors Nip/Tuck episode

The FX show Nip/Tuck made an interesting move, although I doubt it was completely unique, in hyping its season premiere.

The premiere was 1.5 hours instead of the usual 1 hour program, and it subsidized this by, instead of the traditional commercial breaks, having the entire premiere sponsored by Sony Pictures, who hyped some of their upcoming films: All the King's Men, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Fun with Dick and Jane, among others.

I found the idea to be a strong one because, with a film buff like me, I had almost as much interest watching the commercial breaks as I did watching the show. Also, with a show that has quite a bit of critical buzz and high production values, being supported by in-depth film trailers was not a bad move. I don't have any figures as to what Sony paid for the spots, but I thought it was a great way in trying to market the advertising a little more directly so that fans who had the opportunity to fast forward through the commercials, as I did, chose not to and willingly watched them.

Do you think this is the trend that programs could go to in providing fewer commercials but longer spots that reach a very specific audience?

Programming to become Internet-only

With World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)'s move from Spike TV to USA that I mentioned in an earlier post, the company will be losing two programs. Spike TV aired Velocity on Saturday night and Heat on Sunday night, featuring some of the lower-level and smaller WWE wrestlers in matches each week. There was widespread rumors in the wrestling industry that the company would be letting a lot of these lower-card wrestlers go once there was no longer a weekly product to air them on, and some of those wrestlers were reportedly trying to figure out what else they could do with their lives.

However, the company instead decided to go a different direction and one that mirrors our discussion in this class--the WWE will be airing Velocity and Heat each week, as they used to, except now as programming exclusive to their Web site. Starting this weekend, fans will be able to stream both programs every weekend.

Reportedly, the WWE is wanting to do everything in its power to make its Web site a more viable property. They have already begun competing with "wrestling journalism" sites that publish insider news on the wrestling industry by providing their own backstage looks and stories on the Web site. They have fantasy game playing and a lot of secondary and background information for feuds, as well as interviews with the performers. Now, with adding a fair amount of Web-specific programming, I am wondering what effect this might have on the company's New Media division.

At the least, it is good news both for fans and performers, as they will not lose their opportunity to be showcased every week.

Smackdown to Friday nights!

Another in a series of WWE related posts, but this one deals with the WWE's other program (they are considered separate divisions), Smackdown on the broadcast network UPN.

WWE started airing Smackdown on Thursday nights on UPN in 1999, and it has been consistently the most popular or second most popular show on the network, which has struggled at points to survive. WWE usually finished fourth and occaisionally third for the evening in its timeslot amongst the six networks, which is fairly successful considering UPN's penetration and the stiff Thursday lineup.

However, UPN decided to change its lineup around and dedicate its Thursday lineup to a comedy block, thus moving its longest-term most popular show to Friday nights from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m., what most people would consider a death sentence. The WWE was not happy about it, and wrestling fans thought it showed a lack of disrespect from UPN.

However, becuase Smackdown only draws in $30,000 per 30-second ad since advertisers have a stereotyped view of who the wrestling audience is, the network wanted to have the chance to bring in larger ad revenue for Thursday nights. So, they created a new lineup based around the Chris Rock show, Everybody Hates Chris.

What most people believed was a dumb move, moving their most popular long-term show to Friday nights, has proven to be brilliant so far. Barring several big pre-emptions due to baseball playoffs in Boston, New York, and a few other key big market cities, the Friday version of Smackdown is drawing identical ratings of the Thursday version. So, UPN is now faring very well with Friday programming, while the Thursday lineup has been more successful than anyone could imagine.

Anyway, I just thought it was an interesting demonstration that the Friday night death slot may not always be so, especially since they are moving a programming in that has such a dedicated following. It looks like what many media critics were criticizing UPN for turned out to be a stroke of genius.

Here is the press release.


I have several examples I'm going to post today of some interesting things relating to branding and promotion. The first comes with the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment)'s switch from Spike TV to USA. For those who don't know, which may be all of you, WWE was on USA network from the early 1980s on and grew up with the cable industry in a lot of ways.

Five years ago, Viacom gave the WWE a better deal, so they switched their show to TNN, once The Nashville Network and then The National Network.

Eventually, the executives decided that, with RAW as their highest-rated show, they should focus their whole network around the young male demographic, so they created Spike TV.

The WWE's deal was recently up, though, and they had soured somewhat on Spike, so they are now returning "home" to USA.

This Monday's live RAW broadcast was the final one on Spike TV. WWE has been promoting next week's homecoming show for several weeks but have not mentioned that it would be on the USA Network. This being the last, week, though, WWE decided to formally announce that they were moving to USA.

Vince McMahon, the WWE's owner, came out at the beginning of the program and said that the WWE and Spike TV had been good tag team partners and had grown up together and thanked them for their time together but that it was time to go home. At that point, Spike TV cut RAW's audio feed.

An infuriated McMahon had his announcers go off on Spike TV in subtle jabs throughout the night, slipping in several references to USA, with Spike trying to mute the audio at every chance it got.

Starting next week, Spike TV will counter USA's RAW with UFC and another wrestling group called TNA. But I thought Monday night's show was a surreal battle between content producers and the network and shows the power Spike TV believed even mentioning the other network would have.

September 26, 2005

"Where Consumers Make the Ads"

MediaBuyerPlanner links to a MediaPost article about Geico's new website that asks consumers to submit short movies about the Geico gecko for a chance to win prizes. The article states that it "may be the first marketer generated effort to create a large-scale consumer generated media campaign promoting a brand." Geico's website can be found at

The article later mentions, a website that features user-submitted ads and ad concepts. Wired has a story about the Adcandy website, calling it "open source advertising." Companies can subscribe to Adcandy and tap into what Adcandy calls the "collective unconscious of the public."

I'm wondering what motivates the people who submit entries. Geico and the companies who subscribe to Adcandy probably hope that the user-created ads they see are the result of customer evangelism - customers who love a product and want to spread the word. But does offering prizes or other incentives also encourage submissions by people who simply desire to win, and don't feel strongly about a particular product? Would those kinds of submissions still be helpful?

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