NEW YORK — NBC and the USA Network have worked out a barter arrangement in which each will promote the other’s shows through a series of 30-second spots.
Neither network would officially talk about the deal. But NBC will promote such USA summer series as “Dead Zone,” which is off to a great start in the Nielsens Sundays at 10 p.m., and the upcoming detective series “Monk,” starring Tony Shalhoub, to run Fridays in primetime.
In return, USA will run spots for a number of series scheduled for NBC’s fall lineup.
But one serious glitch crept into the process: NBC breached an unwritten rule Sunday night when it ran a promo for “Monk” that listed both the night and the time when the episode will run.
During a commercial break within the hourlong NBC reality series “Crime & Punishment” Sunday at 10 p.m., NBC ran a spot filled with highlight scenes of the special two-hour “Monk” premiere this coming Friday at 9 p.m.
But instead of the usual “Check your local listings” voiceover following the highlights, NBC allowed USA’s announcer to give out the airdate and time.
Does this represent a change in policy for NBC? Not at all, said a network spokesman.
Just ‘an accident’
The day/date voiceover “was an accident,” the spokesman said. “The usual screening process at the network just didn’t pick up on it.”
That should put affiliates at ease. When told of the spot for “Monk,” Michael Carson, general manager at NBC Boston affil WHDH, initially expressed concern.
“I don’t like it,” he said, adding his local sales staff would never permit such a spot. “We’ll sell time for HBO to promote ‘The Sopranos.’ But we wouldn’t allow HBO to conclude the spot by saying, ‘Tune in Sunday at 8.’ ”
Joe Berwanger, general manager of Detroit NBC affil WDIV, agreed with Carson, saying WDIV would not condone the sale of time to a cable network “to list the specific day and time for a series episode.”
The unusual aspect of the NBC-USA exchange of promo spots is that neither network has an ownership stake in the other.
It would be more natural for sister networks such as Fox and FX, ABC and ABC Family or CBS and TNN to engineer such arrangements.
But NBC and USA have worked closely together on two hit NBC series produced by Dick Wolf, who’s under contract to USA: “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”
A few days after its NBC primetime run, the episode of each of the two shows gets an 11 p.m. play on USA.