CW plots rookie season

Newbie net bows inaugural line-up

See New Skeins

NEW YORK — The CW pulled the wraps off its first schedule Thursday and showed off a new approach it hopes will penetrate younger viewers’ cynicism toward traditional advertising.

Rather than just selling 30-second spots within shows like “America’s Next Top Model” or “One Tree Hill,” the net will develop so-called Content Wraps — mini-dramas bristling with product placements that will air in three parts in the commercial breaks.

“This is a great opportunity for an advertiser to showcase their brand in a nontraditional way, to break through the clutter and to make a meaningful consumer connection,” said network prexy Dawn Ostroff.

Ostroff showed a sample in which two singles are selected from the Web to be matched on a date.

In the first pod, viewers are introduced to the couple. In the second, they get makeovers with products and apparel from sponsors. In the third, they go out together and viewers see the result of their efforts.

In a glitzy presentation kicked off by CBS Corp. chief exec Leslie Moonves and Warner Bros. chairman Barry Meyer, the merged weblet unveiled a schedule that, as expected (Daily Variety, May 17), was close to 50-50 derived from the WB and UPN. “Gilmore Girls” and “Veronica Mars” are paired on Tuesday nights, and “Everybody Hates Chris” anchors a comedy block starting at 7 p.m. Sundays.

The Content Wraps were among a number of initiatives the CW is rolling out in a bid to connect with its 18-34 audiences.

Ostroff described a Web strategy that included CW Lab, a site that allows viewers to share pictures and create and share their own videos, as well as the CW Lounge, an online community for fans of the shows.

“The CW will be actively streaming shows online and making them available to iPods and cell phones,” she added.

The CW’s initiatives reflect a response to Madison Avenue, which is increasingly disenchanted with traditional advertising and is pushing to become involved with programming on a deeper level than the 30-second spot.

Fox’s MyNetworkTV is trying to differentiate itself on Madison Avenue by offering sponsors opportunities that would send network writers and producers fleeing to the picket lines.

Net, which will air primetime strip soaps over 13-week “seasons,” is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for product placements, which can be written into its English translations of telenovelas like “Table for Three” and “Fashion House.”

Twentieth TV sales exec VP Bob Sessa showed sample clips for how products can play within the shows. “Please pass the Evian,” said one actress in a restaurant scene. “That’s a beautiful Cartier watch,” said another.

MyNet is also selling the so-called A positions, or the first 30 seconds, to advertisers rather than using them to promote shows. Characters will get their own MySpace.com pages, and the net will produce additional Web-only episodes that are available for sponsorship.

CW’s new skiens:

COMEDIES

The Game (CBS Par)
Creators/Exec producers: Kelsey Grammer, Mara Brock-Akil, Steve Stark
Stars: Aldis Hodge, Coby Bell, Tia Mowry, Hosea Chanchez, Wendy Raquel Robinson
Logline: Girlfriends and wives of pro-football players

DRAMAS
Hidden Palms (Lionsgate)
Creator/Exec producers: Kevin Williamson, Scott Winant
Stars: Michael Cassidy, Taylor Handley, Amber Heard, Sharon Lawrence, D.W. Moffett, Gail O’Grady, Ellery Potterfield, Cheryl White
Logline: Troubled teen moves to Palm Springs and discovers sinister goings-on

Runaway (Sony TV)
Creator/Exec producers: Chad Hodge, Darren Star, Ed Zuckerman
Stars: Donnie Wahlberg, Leslie Hope, Dustin Milligan, Sarah Ramos, Nathan Gamble, Susan Floyd, Karen LeBlanc
Logline: A family on the lam after the father/husband is wrongly convicted of murder

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