Time Warner’s TBS will give its new comedy “Angie Tribeca” a hard-to-miss debut: 25 hours of episodes from the satirical cop series, all presented commercial free. Oh, and there will be commercials, too.
There will be no traditional commercial interruptions when TBS airs an entire season of the program with back-to-back (to back, and more) episodes starting 9 p.m. January 17. Yet viewers who take part will still encounter messages from Dunkin’ Donuts, Redd’s Apple Ale and Intuit TurboTax. All will get not-so-subtle nods in pieces of content TBS will present after one episode of “Angie Tribeca” wraps and before the next one begins.
“We are considering new ways of having our advertising be part of the content,” said Jennifer Cohen, senior vice president of content partnerships for TBS and TNT, the entertainment networks operated by Time Warner’s Turner, in an interview. “It’s a continuation of the show.”
The “binge-a-thon,” which will feature two-minute looks at a party hosted by comic actor Deon Cole, attempts to appeal to viewers who might dig into a video favorite via Netflix or Amazon, which also present programs without commercials. Of course, TBS is a media outlet that depends on revenue from advertising to stay afloat. To reconcile those two dynamics, which affect a lot of TV networks, Turner and many others are testing the kinds of things TBS is doing with “Angie”: advertising is present, but in a way that is often difficult to distinguish from the event that sparked someone to watch in the first place.
Viewers have seen similar stuff on their TV screen in the recent past. Pepsi late last year worked with the producers of the soapy Fox music-industry drama “Empire” to create a three-episode storyline that culminated in a music video starring one of the drama’s characters that was used as a commercial for the soda.
And the strategy has its roots in earlier efforts. In 2004, for example, Procter & Gamble bought up all the ad time for a series of Friday-night movies on Lifetime. Each commercial break offered a chapter, of sorts, in a longer story of women getting makeovers using P&G products like Pantene, Crest and Clairol. When the CW broadcast network launched in 2006, it did so featuring a concept called “content wraps,” or two-minute vignettes that aired during commercial breaks.
Both concepts, coincidentally, were arranged by MediaVest, the Publicis Groupe ad-buying firm where Donna Speciale, now president of ad sales for Turner, once held a senior role.
Under Speciale’s aegis, Turner is attempting to rework the interplay of TV commercials and the programs they support, and the work being done with “Angie Tribeca” represents some of the first tangible attempts viewers will actually see. The company has already announced its intention to reduce the number of commercials it shows on TruTV by the fourth quarter of this year, and fill the time instead with programming. At TNT, Kevin Reilly, president of that network and TBS, intends to cut commercials in three coming dramas by 50%.
What might replace the ad pitches? Turner has also offered to create long-form video vignettes for advertisers that are tailored to the programs and networks on which they appear.
And so, on Sunday, just when viewers might expect to see an ad after one episode of “Angie Tribeca” ends, they will instead see glimpses of a festive party featuringRashida Jones, Jere Burns and other members of the show’s cast; creators Steve and Nancy Carrell; TBS celebrities including Samantha Bee and Conan O’Brien; and, said Cohen, some surprise guests.
All will be taking part in a riff on telethons – in this case, the “binge-a-thon” – and for at least one segment, the event will be said to “run on Dunkin,’” an allusion to the Dunkin’ Donuts commercial slogan. The “green room” for the event will be called the “Redd’s room,” where beverages will be available for guests who stop by. Intuit Turbo Tax will get a shout-out of sorts in “live billboards,” or quick graphics that appear on the screen between episodes. Turbo Tax will also sponsor the show’s digital area on TBS.com.
“I guess we are dipping our foot in the water,” said Cohen, the ad-sales executive. The episodes may be commercial-free, but more advertisers may want to attach their pitches to events like these in coming weeks and months.