At first you wouldn't have a clue you’re looking at a promo for a new network. The spot shows a scene from the USA show Psych. Star James Roday opens a heating grate and, go figure, finds a Cloo—the logo for the NBCUniversal channel that will replace Sleuth on the dial starting Aug. 15.
Shortly after launching the new name and the new logo—complete with a keyhole to peek through, a clever tagline and hip branding designed to connect younger viewers to procedural crime dramas— Cloo will also debut its fi rst original series on Sep. 17: Killer Instinct, in which FBI profiler Mark Safarik tells how he solved some infamous crimes.
All the activity is designed to grow the network from its current meager distribution of 38 million homes and what SNL Kagan pegs as a paltry $30 million in advertising revenue.
“The upside is there is a lot of room to grow with this channel,” says Chris Mc- Cumber, copresident of USA Network, which oversees Cloo.
Distribution has to grow. NBCU is controlled by Comcast, which does not carry Sleuth. If corporate synergy dictates that Cloo will soon be appearing in Comcast homes, NBCU officials aren’t letting on. “We’re negotiating with all of our partners,” McCumber says.
Advertising has to grow, too. “Right now, the bulk of the revenue comes from the affiliate fees,” McCumber says. “We have not over the past couple of years paid a lot of attention to driving ad revenue. So with this rebrand, it’s a signal to our clients that this is something we’re investing in.”
Viewership was up 11% in the second quarter in the 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen. McCumber says NCIS and House draw large enough audiences to interest advertisers. Also interesting is the network’s long average tune-in. But attracting sponsors won’t be easy until distribution and ratings reach critical mass.
“When Comcast comes in, it will give it further distribution, but it’s not like this is going to become a network that’s all of a sudden on the radar,” says Billie Gold, VP for programming at media buyer Carat. Ratings will rise, but will remain smaller than advertisers look for. “It’s like a fourth-tier cable network.”
Cloo received ad dollars during the upfront, mainly because NBCU insisted that clients buy the network if they wanted prime space on bigger networks like USA and Syfy, Gold says.
To succeed, Cloo needs to add distinctive programming. “I’m not sure why they think it will skew slightly younger,” Gold says. Other networks focusing on crime have grown, including Investigation Discovery and TruTV. “But that genre is older-skewing,” Gold notes.
In addition to Killer Instinct, Cloo will air several shows from USA (Psych, Burn Notice, Monk), some other off-network series (NCIS; Law & Order: SVU; Walker, Texas Ranger) plus a package of mystery movies.
Jason Holzman, senior VP of creative at USA, points to research showing that, behind reality, procedurals are the secondmost popular genre with younger viewers. While Sleuth evoked musty images of Sherlock Holmes, the Cloo name is designed as a signal that crime shows can be quirky and fun, in the vein of Psych and Dexter. The network will launch with a marathon of Psych, a comedic procedural seen as the prototype for what Holtzman calls “Cloocedurals.”
Three sets of promotional spots are set to air. The first shows scenes from Psych, Monk and Walker that have been altered to include the Cloo logo as part of the crime scene.
The second group of spots plays off the fact that some viewers get physically addicted to procedurals. The spots show crime-show fans using powers of investigation in their daily life. In one, a woman deduces that she is being told lies about a used car; in another, a student figures out that her roommate has been borrowing her clothes.
The third group of promos shows how people get obsessed with crime shows. One person uses the famous Law & Order clunk for his cell phone, car horn, alarm clock, etc. In another, a viewer finds uses for the kind of cane Dr. House sports.
As the network’s new slogan says, “Go Figure.”
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette