Networks Begin Rolling Out Summer Promo Strategies

Efforts begin to fight off cable TV’s seasonal stronghold

Posted at 3:40 p.m. ET

Broadcast networks like to say they program 52 weeks a year, and hope one result of so many shows getting March or April debuts, is a bigger opportunity to promote their summer schedules just as sweeps month series reach their denouement. That is part of their strategy as they try and get viewers to stick around over the summer, when TV fans often migrate to cable for original scripted programming.

ABC has already been promoting its summer offerings in on air promos running in its hits such as Grey’s Anatomy. Promos feature summer shows such as the returning Wipeout, The Bachelorette; Here Come The Newlyweds and Mike Judge’s new animated show Goode Family, among others. The network is also bringing back Who Wants To Be A Millionaire for a short run in August.

The network’s Disney-owned sibling cable channels, which include ABC Family and SoapNet, are also providing a low-cost way to promote the summer slate.   

ABC Entertainment executive VP of marketing Marla Provencio says the team is planning some event marketing, such as taking Wipeout on a multi-city tour to give viewers the opportunity to take part in the games featured on the show. ESPN Zone sports bars are mixing up cocktails called Wipeout (tequila and grapefruit) and Sucker Punch (Kahlua and marshmallow syrup) to help promote the series.

At NBC, entertainment marketing president Adam Stotsky says summer is just as challenging and competitive as any other time of year. “I think from a broadcasters’ perspective, the notion of the broadcast season is anachronistic. The days of starting in September and finishing in May are over,” he says pointing out that shows such as American Idol and Survivor were born during summer months.

NBC is bowing Great American Road Trip in July, a reality show featuring families completing challenges. Stotsky says marketers have to think a little bit differently about the audience during summer since families are together more and the competition isn’t among TV outlets but also other leisure pursuits.

America’s Got Talent, from Simon Cowell’s Syco Television and Fremantle Media, may also gain a lift thanks to Susan Boyle, the Scottish contestant who became a YouTube sensation after singing on the U.K. version of the show, Britain’s Got Talent. Producers have suggested Boyle may appear on the Stateside show.

Season finales of Medium, Law & Order SVU and Law & Order on NBC are expected to help lift the premiere of Conan O’Brien’s new 11.35 p.m. time slot, which begins June.

The CW meanwhile is programming its first original summer series with reality show Hitched Or Ditched and a docu-series set in Washington D.C. called Blonde Charity Mafia. Since much of The CW’s younger audience hangs out online, executive VP marketing Rick Haskins says, "We’re going to see an increase in Webisodes, some being prequels to shows and others being great teasers.”

One new tool on the marketing front is micro-blog, Twitter, which CW will use to the fullest extent by sending users to links to CW video. “We’re going to be taking advantage of Twitter,” says Haskins. “Our online presence is as important as on-air because our audience is there.”

Fox is debuting a new drama show, Mental this summer and returning shows such as So You Think You Can Dance; Don’t Forget The Lyrics; Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader and Hell’s Kitchen.  

CBS is yet to unveil its summer programming, but plans call for the return of Big Brother in July, as well as the Tony Awards in June and the annual Boston Pops July 4th special.