Inside move: Synergy on ‘Brother’

Producers claim no product placement, just coincidence

Tuesday night’s episode of “Big Brother 2” appeared to take the concept of primetime product placement to a new level — at least at first glance.

A so-called “luxury challenge” on Tuesday’s seg had the “Big Brother” house guests competing for a shot at a screening of Universal’s “American Pie 2.” To win the prize, the players had to break through a block of ice and grab a ticket frozen in the middle.

The word “blockbuster” was mentioned several times during the competish. Then, immediately following the end of the segment, CBS broadcast a 30-second commercial for Blockbuster Video — a corporate cousin of the Eye web. Later in the show, producers aired about 10 seconds of the pic’s trailer.

While the seg seemed to be a well-designed plug for Blockbuster and “Pie,” a CBS rep and “Big Brother” exec producer Arnold Shapiro both said no money changed hands.

“It’s coincidental synergy,” a CBS spokesman said of the contest’s “blockbuster” theme, noting that the word “blockbuster” is a fairly common adjective for a hit movie.

As for the “Pie” clip, Shapiro said Universal gave him permission to air up to 60 seconds from the movie and its trailer so that viewers would get a sense of what the players were competing for. Hyping the movie or Blockbuster were not considerations.

“It would never cross my mind to do that at all,” he said.

A Universal spokesperson confirmed the arrangement, saying the studio didn’t pay a dime for the clip.

CBS might want to consider charging in the future, based on the ratings performance of “Big Brother 2.” Tuesday’s episode was the most-watched program of the night on any network in all key demos.

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