How NBCU Plans to Rock You This Fall

Cast, customizable clips are keys to campaign supporting hit comedy’s off-network launch

NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution
and its syndication partners on 30 Rock
are pulling out all the promotional stops for
the comedy’s Sept. 19 off-network syndication launch,
with the show’s cast and customizable clips playing
central roles in the push.

Says one station executive who is airing the 30 Rock
reruns: “If these shows don’t resonate with audiences,
it won’t be because of a lack of effort on the part of the
stations or syndicators.”

The campaign kicked off in early May, and the last message
is a countdown spot, set to Queen’s “We Will Rock
You,” that lets viewers know when to watch. The phases
rolled out over fi ve months, says Donna Mills, senior VP
of marketing, communications and affiliate relations for
NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution.

The campaign started with highlight clips from 30 Rock
featuring the show’s entire cast and then became more
specific, introducing every character with original
footage shot last spring with the main cast members.
Somehow, most of Tracy Morgan’s spots involve him
lifting his shirt for no good reason.

NBCU also provided stations with a custom content
management system (CMS) from DG Entertainment
that allows local promo managers to quickly and easily
cut their own promos based on a keyword search.
For example, if a promotions manager wants to create
a promo around “pizza,” he or she just needs to enter
the keyword into the system to come up with plenty
of relevant clips.

When NBCU started looking for promoters to assist
the syndicator with the show’s launch, it specifically
asked them to provide a CMS that NBCU could then
provide to stations.

DG Entertainment created the CMS more than 10
years ago, when Sony first sold Seinfeld into syndication.

“When Sony was launching Seinfeld, we were contracted
to go through all 154 episodes and catalog
them,” says Robbie Davis, DG Entertainment president
and CEO. “We ended up with 11,000 clips, so we created
a database of clips described in unique ways so
that someone could go through and easily find clips
when they were needed.”

Since then, the CMS has evolved with every show
that DG has worked on; DG has created CMS databases
for NBCU’s The Office as well as Warner Bros.’
Sex and the City, Friends and Looney Tunes, and more.

30 Rock is the newest CMS, and it has more features
than any of its predecessors,” Davis says. “30 Rock is
definitely the gold standard at this point.”

30 Rock will simultaneously premiere on Comedy
Central, where it will air weeknights at 7 and 7:30
p.m. ET, and on Tribune’s WGN America. Both cable
networks have crafted their own promo campaigns for
the show.

Like NBCU, Comedy Central also had access to the
cast, and its marketing staff wrote fresh promos for cast
members Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Jack
McBrayer and Morgan.

“We certainly recognized that when you have a show
with such incredible actors like this one, the best way
to promote the show is by getting access to the cast,”
says Walter Levitt, Comedy Central executive VP of
marketing. “We all are already such fans of the show
and its cast members that we very quickly got to ideas
involving the cast. They are really the core of what
makes the show hilarious.”

Note that Morgan also is called on to raise his shirt
in Comedy Central’s promos.

WGN America is focusing much of its promotional
efforts on a social media campaign that includes Facebook
and Twitter.

“We are taking the point of view of being a fan ourselves,
and creating a fan community,” says Josh Richman,
WGN America VP of marketing.

Expectations for 30 Rock’s ratings performance range.
“It’s hoped that it will be as successful as The Office
was,” says Bill Carroll, VP of programming for Katz
Television Group Programming.

Even that level of performance—and The Office is
considered a mediocre performer in off-net syndication—
will be tough for 30 Rock to reach. The show was
sold to stations on an all-barter basis while the country
was still deep in recession. Due to that, stations can’t
afford to air the show in prime access time slots, one of
their most lucrative advertising times. In most markets,
30 Rock will air in late fringe, which is less visible, less
watched and less expensive.

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