CBS in-flight on American

Replaces Alphabet as programming supplier

CBS won a marketing victory over ABC by replacing the Alphabet network as the in-flight programming supplier and network marketing partner to American Airlines.

Beginning May 1, roughly 2.1 million American Airlines passengers per month will see a one-hour magazine-style show produced by CBS. ABC had the deal with American the last two years.

A typical hour of “CBS Eye on American” will include a news report from “60 Minutes,” “48 Hours” or other CBS News programs, followed by an episode of an entertainment show such as “Kids Say the Darndest Things” or “Everybody Loves Raymond” and then highlights from “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

After “CBS Eye on American” runs, an entire half-hour CBS entertainment show will follow, said American Airline’s spokesman Bill Dreslin.

Dreslin said that after two years with ABC, the airline wanted to take a fresh look at what it wanted from a programming partner. He said American evaluated potential programming partners on the quality of their programming and the depth of their commitment to marketing and promotional programs.

“We decided what CBS was bringing to the table was the best for us,” Dreslin said.

George Schweitzer, CBS’ executive VP of marketing and communications, said that CBS has been pursuing this deal with American Airlines for some time.

“It’s a very valuable, captive audience,” Schweitzer said. “It’s business people and young families on travel. All the networks are covetous of that audience.”

In the new deal, CBS does not pay American Airlines a fee but does get time during the hour-long program to promote its other shows.

Schweitzer said that in addition to the in-flight programming, CBS and American will run a series of joint promotions that link CBS programming to American Airlines’ destinations. For example, in September the companies will run a campaign centered around CBS’ “The 32nd Annual CMA (Country Music Association) Awards,” telecast from Nashville. Similarly, the network and the airline will run a contest on flights to Chicago to promote “Chicago Hope” with prizes courtesy of CBS and American Airlines.

Schweitzer added that the network is arranging for stars of CBS shows to make surprise appearances on certain flights.

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