HOLLYWOOD — MTV execs on the prowl for fresh show ideas have discovered a new source of wealth: movie marketing execs.
Always a big movie promoter to appease its target demo, MTV is now working hand-in-hand with movie studios to create original programming that hypes summer films.
Further blurring the line between advertising and creative content, the music net is set to bow “Never Before Scene,” an experimental new series created in coordination with the studios to help sell MTV aud-friendly flicks.
Premiere episode, slated to air July 12 after the channel’s male-oriented “Sunday Night Stew” block, will push Fox’s Will Smith actioner “I, Robot.”
“Scene” is the ultimate in product integration. For “Robot,” Smith will host a half-hour dedicated to the flick, which will include the debut of 10 never-before-seen minutes of film footage, an audience Q&A, and a behind-the-scenes segment dedicated to the feature’s special effects.
Other films in line for such treatment include “Collateral,” starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx (both of whom bantered a bit for this year’s MTV Movie Awards) and the Par comedy “Without a Paddle.”
“Our research shows us that while our audience enjoys shows like ‘Diary’ and ‘TRL,’ they are looking for a deeper relationship with the film,” says John Shea, MTVN music group exec VP of integrated marketing. “They’re ravenous for a glimpse into how movies get made. They’re sophisticated viewers who pay attention to box office and want more than the traditional junket interview.”
And while other networks are still recovering from the loss of males, MTV’s “Stew” lineup of testosterone-fueled skeins — “Punk’d,” “Pimp My Ride,” “Wildboyz” and “Viva La Bam” — are providing a potent driver to get men to the movies.
More than 2.5 million viewers tuned in to an exclusive 10-minute preview of Universal’s “The Chronicles of Riddick.” Specially-created “Riddick” promos and graphics blended into the design of the “Stew” lineup. These tactics were also used for the network’s weeknight “10 spot” programming block during the week leading up to the debut.
A similar strategy was adopted for “Dodgeball,” which has grossed more than $87 million in just two weeks of release. Stars Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn additionally hosted and provided color commentary for a game of dodgeball as part of MTV’s “Rock N’ Jock” sports franchise.
Fox execs are hoping MTV will help boost “I, Robot” into bigger stratospheres. Studio’s exec VP of marketing Jeff Godsick says Fox has tagged all of the film’s radio advertising to drive listeners to the premiere of “Never Before Scene.”
“It has an implied endorsement which is vital to us,” Godsick says.
It’s a win-win relationship: MTV gets additional access to the stars its auds adore and studios get movie-centric programs written in the MTV language that its target viewers speak.
The latter is what Godsick says separates MTV from other networks. You don’t see movie studios pitching their summer hits to the Lifetime aud.
“They have a relationship with their audience that is unparalled in terms of the way they present and build materials that is always in tune with what their viewers want to see,” he says.
Though the bulk of MTV’s hefty ad revenue comes from the studios — and the net will pocket more than $1 billion in ad sales next year, according to Kagan World figures — MTV/MTV Films prexy Van Toffler insists that the channel isn’t just shilling for the studios.
“There is an implied endorsement that this is a movie for your demo. But we don’t view what we are doing as a commercial,” Toffler says. “Putting 10 minutes of ‘Dodgeball’ on the air is the same as putting Ashton Kutcher on a show for us — it’s about compelling content for our audience. These aren’t paid infomercials. We choose which movies our audience would have an interest in.”
Studios often buy the bulk of their advertising during the upfront market, so typically no additional money is exchanged for the production of the interstitials or added content. If the B.O. projection for a film is large enough, a studio may foot the bill for a special half-hour.
Others embrace the infomercial comparison. Comedy Central veep of marketing promotions Mitch Fried, who orchestrates similar promotions like the cabler’s recent “Anchorman”-hosted Fourth of July weekend, says the studios get a lot of bang for their upfront buck.
“Between the 30- and 60-second spots and the specials, which repeat several times, that’s a significant amount of programming time. It’s kind of like a half-hour infomercial for them,” he says. “If the studios were to buy a half-hour of air time flat out, it would be a lot more expensive.”