Discovery’s New TV Show Is Really A TV Commercial For Fox’s ‘Exodus’ Movie

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Discovery Communications will further erase the lines between TV program and TV commercial when it unveils a new show later this week that was commissioned by film studio 20th Century Fox for the express purpose of getting viewers interested in the coming release of the Bible-themed film “Exodus: Gods and Kings.”

At 8 p.m.  Thursday, December 4th, Discovery will air “Surviving Exodus,” a modern-day examination of the famous plagues Moses visited upon the Egyptians in his efforts to win his followers’ freedom. The hour-long program will feature talent from across the company’s networks – Dave Salmoni, the animal trainer seen frequently on Animal Planet; Terry Schappert, from Discovery Channel’s “Dude, You’re Screwed”; and Hakeem Oluseyi, the astrophysicist who appears on Science Channel – and will air not only on Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery and American Heroes Channel, but also on several of Discovery Communications’ overseas networks in nine  other countries in subsequent days. Aaron Paul, the “Breaking Bad” actor who has a role in the film, will host.

Viewers will not be expressly told the show was created by Discovery for purposes of drawing attention to the Fox film, said Scott Felenstein, executive vice president for ad sales at Discovery Communications, and that is by design. Rather than jamming a commercial message into dialogue or placing a product on a show’s set, he said, “Advertisers want to be a part of creating content. They want to be able to distribute that content in other platforms and they want to be immersed in producing the content. Ultimately, you just want to produce content that viewers are going to like, and if you can get your message across in a subtle way, that’s a lot better than putting it where it doesn’t belong.”

Discovery’s effort – seven to eight months in the making, by Felenstein’s estimation – comes as other networks have appeared open to similar ideas. Last month, the top ad-sales executive at Time Warner’s CNN said sister network HLN was eager to run TV programs co-produced by sponsors. HLN recently debuted “Growing America: A Journey To Success,” a documentary series about entrepreneurs that is co-produced with InterContinental Hotels Group’s Holiday Inn. Several scenes in the series are set in the well-known hotel chain.

Securing similar pacts with sponsors “is a big part of our strategy in 2015,” Katrina Cukaj, executive vice president of ad sales for CNN, which oversees HLN, told Variety in a recent interview. “I would love to have a couple of brands a quarter.”

The concept of advertisement-as-TV-show is gaining more popularity, it seems, at a time when marketers are seeking – and often receiving – similar treatment in digital venues. So-called “native” advertisements are made to look much like the content on a web site or mobile venue that is the original draw to a particular outlet. The concept has spurred debate in recent months as critics wonder if consumers are more likely to be duped into believing the ad message is simply one more piece of the content they first sought, or assume the editorial staff is responsible for the advertising.

The technique also surfaces as more TV viewers are able to watch programming in venues that cut back on or eliminate the amount of traditional advertising that accompanies a show. As consumers increase the amount of viewing they do that is “unhitched” from a linear broadcast, advertisers may well seek out new ways of running commercials that are tied very specifically to the programs they sponsor, so they seem part of the viewing event, rather than a disruption of it.

Discovery’s Felenstein declined to comment on how the production of “Surviving Exodus” was financed or how much 20th Century Fox paid for the effort. He said Discovery had hired an outside production company but had producers from Science Channel and Discovery Channel in place in executive-producer roles to supervise the effort.A 20th Century Fox spokesman was not immediately able to offer comments from executives.

Viewers will have some understanding of the connection between “Surviving Exodus” and the movie it is helping to promote, said Felenstein. Ads for the movie will appear during commercial breaks, he said. “When the show ends, [viewers] will have experienced a very entertaining hour on the exodus from Egypt and they will also be very aware that there is a movie coming out in about a week on the exodus.”  Commercials from other marketers will also be shown, he said.

“Exodus: Gods and Kings” is expected to launch December 12.

Felenstein expects to see more content sparked by advertisers hit TV screens in months to come. Marketers “used to want to be put into the content. Then they wanted to be ‘integrated’ into the content,” he said. “Now they want to be part of the content.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 2

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. The entire “Discovery Network” has become disgusting and repulsive. For a network that bills itself as “educational”, it has become one of the primary pushers of misinformation in America today, second only to FOX News.

    Clearly “Discovery Network” is owned and run by right-wing ideologues. It’s so full of propaganda and crap it’s unbelievable. Yet days, its basically the only network of channels that airs supposed documentaries in America.

    This is just one more sign of the effects of the corporate monopoly on America media. Even so-called public stations like PBS are actually run by corporate boards.

    Of course in this “documentary” they don’t tell the audience that the latest scholarship out of Israel itself is that the “Exodus” never happened and that its a story that was created around 400 BCE, hundreds of years after the supposed events took place.

    Discovery Network is despicable. The fact that they have a virtual monopoly on all adult “educational” programming in America is highly disturbing (and they just bought up a kid’s network and are starting to try and dominate that space as well).

    Also, screw the “Myth Busters”. I can’t respect anyone who works with that media company.

  2. Mick says:

    Earth to Scotty…advertisers don’t want to be part of creating content, they just want to sell stuff. Years ago this kind of blurring of the content/commercial lines was prevented by the FCC and the identifying of “program length commercials.” Yet today, in your cable world, anything goes. Deception and all.

More TV News from Variety