CBS to hype fall shows online in promo deal

CBS has dialed up a groundbreaking promotional deal with AOL to hype the Eye web’s new fall shows to all of the online giant’s 13 million users.

As part of the “AOL/CBS Tune In!” campaign, banner ads for CBS shows will pop up every time AOL users log on or off the service, whenever they check their e-mail and during their visits to AOL’s People Connection chat rooms. When AOL users exit, they’ll see a message detailing that evening’s CBS primetime lineup.

Eye web stars will also take part in daily online chats with users tied to the net’s new lineup, and information about new shows will be posted in AOL’s Entertainment Asylum section. The promotion will begin Saturday and run for nine days.

“You won’t be able to avoid it,” George Schweitzer, CBS exec VP for marketing and communications, said of the Eye’s presence on AOL, noting that AOL has never allowed ads to appear on its “thank you” screens, which pop up when users leave the service.

Exit screen is key

Schweitzer said getting on to AOL’s exit screen was of key importance to CBS because it will allow the web to target consumers who are about to begin a different recreational activity. “We can say to them, ‘Now that you’re not going to be online, here’s what’s on TV tonight,’ ” Schweitzer said.

While CBS has partnered with online services before, and AOL has teamed up with other webs, the CBS/AOL partnership appears to be the most comprehensive promotional tie-in ever on behalf of a major broadcast network’s fall lineup.

CBS execs wouldn’t comment on the financial terms of the deal, saying only that AOL will receive promotional exposure on CBS. Industry insiders say no money will change hands in the deal; rather, AOL will be given a number of on-air ads in exchange for hyping the Eye’s shows.

The AOL partnership could also help CBS reach out to younger viewers, who’ve generally avoided the network. The online titan’s user core is aged 25-49, Schweitzer said, which fits in with CBS’ “strategy to expose our programming to younger audiences.”

In addition, “The AOL community is very media savvy,” making them more likely to sample new shows, Schweitzer said.

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