Movies have a new ally: TV. Universal Pictures and USA Networks started the lovefest with a 10-minute sneak preview of Dawn of the Dead. Now ABC and Fox are mining their corporate synergies with movie-marketing tactics. The network lineups add zing; the studios reach millions of potential moviegoers in minutes.
Fox rearranged its prime time schedule for May 12 to accommodate a 10-minute preview of 20th Century Fox's The Day After Tomorrow, which opens May 28. After the studio approached the network, Fox saw a sweeps bonanza. It "Foxified" That '70s Show, according to Preston Beckman, executive vice president of strategic planning for Fox Broadcasting Co., adding a 10-minute blooper reel at the end of an original episode.
Fox will extend that night's American Idol
by four or five minutes—and carve out 10 minutes for the Tomorrow
preview. 20th Century Fox footed the bill, but it came far cheaper than if the studio had ponied up the full rate for prime-time air.
"It's good for News Corp. and good for us," Beckman says. "It's a little bit of showmanship in the middle of a sweep to extend '70s
and American Idol." An added bonus: This particular preview, he adds, will be "pretty controversial." The movie, about the onslaught of global weather disasters, is a political hot button. The Democrats embrace it as pro-environment. The Republicans pray the anti-green accusations don't stick to the Bush White House.
ABC saw a similar opportunity with M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, which, like all of the director's films, will be distributed by Disney's Buena Vista. "Six to eight months ago, we knew that movie was going to be a top priority for us," says Judith Tukich, vice president of synergy and special projects for ABC Television Network. "That mushroomed into a much larger campaign."
ABC, which had planned to air Shyamalan's Sixth Sense
on April 26 and May 3, respectively, seized the day, tying in The Village. On April 26, Shyamalan appeared in several interstitials, talking about Sixth Sense
and The Village. An almost three-minute trailer of The Village
ran within the film. For the broadcast premiere of Unbreakable, ABC will pull out all the stops, with Shyamalan-hosted interstitials, brief interviews with stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, a behind-the-scenes look at the new movie, and an action-packed 7½-minute Village
Like Fox, parent company Disney pays its network for the time. But it's more of a barter arrangement. "Within our own company," says Tuckich, "we trade out," such as related banner advertising on Internet sites. Although intra-company marketing campaigns are smart and vertical integration makes them affordable, ABC is also cross-pollinating with other studios.
On May 9, the network will air the broadcast premiere of Warner Bros.'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Included will be a 10-minute sneak peek at the new movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which premieres in June, and 71/2 minutes of interstitials featuring the movies three stars: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint.
(Although Disney has no corporate stake in the Harry Potter franchise, ABC bought the rights to all three movies three years ago. It plans to run them on network and cable.)
ABC also helped Sony Pictures Entertainment with the promotion of 13 Going on 30, which opened April 23 and features Alias
star Jennifer Garner. On April 16, Garner hosted a night of TGIF, with interstitials between Hope and Faith, Married to the Kellys, and The George Lopez Show.
And it's undeniable that promotion on a broadcast network—particularly promotion that comes at a discount—is the most valuable, wide-reaching there is. "On a Wednesday night, when we have our top-rated comedy and the biggest show on television," says Fox's Beckman, "this 10 minutes is probably guaranteed to be viewed by 20-plus million people."