Alternative means of support


With belt-tightening stations largely shunning this week's Promax/BDA 2001 conference in Miami Beach, Fla., and trimming promotional spending, as well, syndicators, which also are lowering their Promax/BDA presence, have to conjure up innovative ways for stations to support upcoming series debuts.

Buena Vista isn't holding the typical Promax/BDA workshop for its upcoming talk strip Iyanla. It doesn't seem practical when the Tribune, Fox, NBC, ABC, Paramount, Young, Sinclair and Hearst-Argyle station groups aren't sending big numbers to the event, which runs June 20-23.

Instead, the studio will give stations a half-hour Iyanla preview. Stations will pocket the entire commercial inventory for the special, which will cover the rags-to-riches life of host Iyanla Vanzant. Buena Vista is also buying time on various cable nets to run the special à la infomercial. It will air multiple times on cable and station outlets, starting in July.

"Given where the economy has gone, I don't know any TV station or group that isn't scrutinizing every dollar they spend to make sure they get a return on it," says Frank Biancuzzo, marketing chief at Hearst-Argyle, which will carry Iyanla in some markets. He says he is steering away from such usual fall marketing strategies as billboard and radio advertising.

Buena Vista marketing head Sal Sardo predicts the Iyanla preview will be a winner because "it has promotional value. But we are creatively handling it as a show" so that viewers will take to it. Also, he says, the preview—offering interviews with the talk strip's executive producer Barbara Walters and Vanzant—should help distinguish Iyanla from Ananda, another upcoming talk show led by an African-American woman.

NBC Enterprises rolled out its marketing workshop for The Other Half via satellite to stations last Wednesday. Stations saw the whole launch campaign, produced by the Weakest Link promotional team, the NBC Agency, and may roll out ads this week.

And Twentieth Television and Universal are holding small meetings for station executives in Miami and personally calling those not in attendance. Pearson is one of the few syndicators offering a full-fledged workshop, set for the upcoming Card Sharks.