Fox scheduling guru Preston Beckman has referred to the millions who tune in for big sports events — like the Olympics, Super Bowl or World Series — as “borrowed audience.”
So with the understanding that most who watched the Giants defeat the Patriots Sunday in a nail-biter that went down to the last play won’t be back, how did host network NBC — having pointed toward this day to help initiate a turnaround — do in transforming this loan into paying dividends to those who might be receptive to its promotion?
In the short term, not so great. Oddly, NBC’s shrewdest flourishes had little to do with its much-ballyhooed push immediately coming out of the game — launching “The Voice” and “Smash” — but rather tilted more successfully toward the summer.
NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke has touted the company’s Symphony approach, designed to synergistically leverage its various assets to buttress each other. Yet compared to Fox, say, NBC was relatively restrained in pushing its assorted properties, unless you count in-game ads for two Universal movies, “Battleship” and “The Lorax,” which didn’t necessarily make you want to rush out and see either.
Granted, the network faced some obvious limitations. One can second-guess using football to launch programs that will skew so heavily toward women, but plenty of females watch the Super Bowl too — a lot more than catch an average installment of “The Biggest Loser.”
Nevertheless, the “Smash” spots weren’t particularly potent — touting the big-name members of the cast seems a little tone-deaf, and pushing Katharine McPhee’s sex appeal won’t bring in many men — and a certain disconnect could be seen in the big action-oriented promo the network put together for “The Voice,” featuring the ubiquitous Betty White. Sure, tee hee, but the creative seemed out of sorts with the show’s likely audience.
While NBC has clearly put a lot of eggs in the midseason basket, its best spots were actually for Howard Stern joining “America’s Got Talent” — both clever and perhaps the most direct use of the showcase to reach males — and this summer’s London Olympics, representing the network’s next big chance (as well as a more protracted platform) to sell itself to a mass audience. A late-in-the-game plug for its new drama “Awake” also did a nifty job of encapsulating the premise.
Interestingly, NBC limited its promotional focus — tossing in spots for the return of “Celebrity Apprentice,” a relocated “Rock Center” and Jay Leno, and one generic ad for its Thursday comedies. For the most part, though, NBC appeared to look forward, assuming most of its established commodities weren’t worth giving such precious time.
NBC did capitalize on “The Voice’s” musical bent to sprinkle additional promotion throughout the festivities, from Cee Lo Green popping up in Madonna’s halftime show to Blake Shelton singing “America the Beautiful.” Still, the network resisted the temptation to splash graphics under those judges in mid-performance screaming “Please, by all that’s holy, watch ‘The Voice!”
Of course, if the network’s winter plans don’t yield the hoped-for Symphony of benefits, maybe look for that during the Olympics.