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KVVU thinks outside the (music) box in pact with Gibson
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KVVU Las Vegas, one of the boldest stations in the country when it comes to branded integration, has another unique product placement partnership in the works. The station is preparing to debut an on-set music studio bearing the name of a major music outfit. The “Gibson Showroom at FOX5 Studios” reflects an innovative pact between the Meredith station and the guitar giant Gibson, unveiled as the CES show kicks off in town this week.

In addition to naming-rights cash, KVVU gets a state-of-theart studio to host the numerous musical acts that schlep through Sin City. “Of all the things we did well, such as movies and television [star] interviews, what we didn’t do well was live music,” says Darrin McDonald, vice president and general manager at KVVU. “We didn’t have a facility for performers to come in and play.”

KVVU does now. The 600 square-foot studio, bearing the Gibson logo prominently, sits in a balcony overlooking the set belonging to KVVU’s lifestyle show, More. (KVVU airs More from 9-10 a.m. and More Access 6-7 p.m.)

While the merits of branded integration can be debated ad nauseam, KVVU is an indisputable pioneer in the category. In 2008, the station made national headlines when it featured McDonald’s iced coffee cups on the set of its morning program; KVVU’s execs said the cups were there during the lighter news/lifestyle part of the show, not the hard stuff prior to 7 a.m. The cups’ appearance, during a yearlong contract with McDonald’s, set off a debate on ethics. But KVVU did not stop there; after moving More out of the station’s news division, it sold naming rights to the More green room, along with a wet bar and slot machine on the set.

KVVU’s McDonald says the Gibson studio will pop up primarily on the two More shows, but will get airtime during the news when appropriate, such as when a big-name act is performing at a local charity event. “If we have the right people and the right reason, we absolutely will [have the performances in newscasts],” he says. McDonald adds that KVVU is also kicking around a possible musical performance series.

Live music is essential to many Fox affiliates’ local programming. The network of course offers pop cultural touchstones such as The X Factor, American Idol and Glee, and many Fox affiliates’ mammoth morning programs feature both local and touring performers. WJBK Detroit and KTVI St. Louis are a few Fox affiliates where live music is essential to the stations’ local identity.

Gibson has showrooms around the world, including Nashville, Austin, New York and London, where artists pop in to try out new gear. Las Vegas, where an unending array of performers play at the various rock rooms and casino theaters every night, was a logical choice for the instrument vendor. “They did not have a showroom in Vegas,” says Terri Peck, director of marketing at KVVU. “We said, why not build it in our studio?”

A Gibson representative says the company is not only intent on getting its product onto television, but also having its artists perform in top-quality TV venues. The deal with KVVU could be the first of many Gibson-TV station arrangements around the country, adds the rep.

Neither Gibson nor KVVU would divulge financial details of the partnership, only that it is a joint deal with a year-toyear contract. KVVU’s management says the cost of building out such a studio space runs $75,000- $100,000. “It’s a number we feel comfortable enough about to build this out,” Peck says of Gibson’s investment.

Construction crews busted their collective butts to get KVVU’s performance space up and running in time for CES, the giant annual electronics trade show Jan. 10-13 (the 2011 CES attracted 140,000 people and 2,700 exhibitors to Vegas). A lineup of big-name talent is scheduled to perform out of the KVVU-Gibson studio during the show, though the principals were not sharing names at presstime. “CES is real important because there will be a lot of eyeballs here at this time,” says Peck. “Gibson has a very large role at CES.”

KVVU will slowly unveil the studio, with one or two performances on air per week, while gradually ramping up the musical acts—and Gibson plugs. “We’ll have it as many times as we have [available] talent,” says McDonald. “Potentially, it could be five days a week.”

E-mail comments to mmalone@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @BCMikeMalone

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