Programming

More Promos Help Emmy Voters See the Lights

Creating more chances for views of shows can lead to more nominations 8/01/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Throughout its run, Friday Night Lights has gained
critical acclaim, a loyal cult following and even a Peabody
award. But for its fifth and final season, the show’s producing studio, Universal Media Studios
(UMS), and its originating distributor, Direc-
TV, were determined to see it earn one more
honor: the most prestigious Emmy nomination
it could get. So they went to work, using
all the marketing muscle they could muster.

“I think the show was initially marketed as
more of a teen soap opera, with quite a bit of
emphasis on the idea that the show was about
football,” says Jon Gieselman, DirecTV senior
vice president of marketing. “What we did was
reposition the marketing to emphasize that this
is a high-quality drama about the heartbreak
and joy of everyday life. That permeated into
all of our marketing, whether that was the TV
creative, the print ads or the Emmy mailer.”

Besides changing their marketing focus,
UMS and DirecTV decided to send Academy
voters the show’s entire fifth season, comprised
of 10 one-hour episodes, on DVD. They had
done this the prior year as well with some
great success, earning Emmy nominations for
the show’s dynamic leads, Kyle Chandler and
Connie Britton. But as the critically adored
series ended its run, UMS and DirecTV felt strongly that the show had a real shot at an
outstanding drama Emmy nomination, even
in an extraordinarily tough year. They felt that
giving Academy voters every opportunity to
see the program could make the difference.

“It’s hard when you send out only one episode
of a drama. That doesn’t really tell the
whole story,” says Jessica Nevarez, director of
publicity for Universal Media Studios.

Sending out a show’s entire season has been
done before -- including by FX with The Shield,
which was the first series on ad-supported
cable to win a major Emmy when Michael
Chiklis was named outstanding lead actor in a
drama in 2002—but it’s not done commonly
because it’s a more expensive proposition.

“It’s expensive enough that we had to think
about it,” says Gieselman. “And DirecTV is not
like a network that places a great deal of importance
on winning Emmys.”

But in the end, Gieselman and DirecTV
decided the extra cost was worth it. “It was
just such good creative, such a good mailer
and such a good idea, I never had any doubt,”
Gielselman says.

Gielselman admits, however, that his confidence is supported by the benefit of hindsight.
The series did, in fact, win three nominations:
acting nods once again for Chandler and Britton,
and the hoped-for prize: a nomination for
outstanding drama.

“In a show’s final season, the Academy tends
to look at a show’s body of work,” Gielselman
says. “Rightly or wrongly, that gets
factored in. It was a great series
and it deserves these nominations -- and to win.”

“At this point last year, we were
banging our heads against the
wall. We had done everything we
could to get Friday Night Lights in
front of voting members—panels,
screenings, lots of initiatives,”
says Nevarez, who also admits
they may have popped
some champagne after
the Emmy nominations
were announced on
July 14. “This nomination
is very rewarding to us.
We couldn’t be happier.”

Universal Media Studios
did a few other
things to support its
shows, which besides
Friday Night Lights include first-time nominee Parks and Recreation
as well as vets The Office, 30 Rock, House and
Law & Order: SVU. UMS also put a big push
behind NBC’s late-night offerings -- Saturday
Night Live
, The Tonight Show and Late Night
With Jimmy Fallon
-- and were pleased with
the results, which included Kristen Wiig’s
third nomination as best supporting actress in
a comedy and Jimmy Fallon’s multiple nominations,
including one for his show as best
comedy, musical or variety series.

UMS ran theatrical trailers supporting its
shows in Los Angeles-area movie theaters,
and it placed the trailers in online TV trade
publications for broader reach. The studio also
mounted digital billboards in key areas of L.A.
to get the word out to Emmy voters.

Perhaps most importantly, for the first time
UMS made all of its shows available online to
Emmy voters at universalmediastudios.com,
giving every Academy member an individual
code so that they could log on to the microsite
and watch full seasons of all of UMS’
shows online.

“We know how many people went to the
site because we have the analytics, so we can
see how many people looked at the home page
and how many full episodes were played,”
says Curt King, UMS senior vice president of
publicity. “Those are viewings we might not
have otherwise gotten. If people are watching
your shows, then hopefully they will vote for
them. We moved into the digital world in a
big way this year, focusing a little less
on traditional print.”

While putting episodes online
makes sense, not every studio or network -- including most-nominated network HBO -- does it yet. Showtime was the first network
to put its shows online a few years ago. UMS
and FX joined in this year.

“We took all of our series and had the executive
producers for each show select their five favorite episodes,” says John Solberg, FX
senior vice president of public relations, noting
that the site exists at fxnetworks.com/fyc.
“Anyone could log in. We ended up with a
high amount of traffic.”

FX, which has been a precedent-setter at the
Emmys, this year earned six nominations—
four for Justified and two for Louie. In particular,
FX is proud of its constant acting nominations,
says Solberg, including this year’s nods
for Justified’s Timothy Olyphant, Walton Goggins,
Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies, as
well as for Louie's Louis C.K.

Now that the nominations are out, all of the
networks and studios that put their episodes
online say they think it helped.

“I think the more avenues with which you
can provide an Academy member to watch
your show, the better off you are,” says Solberg.
“In this day and age where everyone has an
iPad or other mobile device, you can be on the
go and out of your house and still watch.”

E-mailcomments to
palbiniak@gmail.com and
follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

September
October