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Conan O’Brien, AT&T Send Viewers To Web To See Show With 360-Degree Views

A slab of beef hurtling through the air on TBS’  “Conan” marks the latest effort to nudge advertisers and late-night programs closer together.

Rather than put a product on the set of Conan O’Brien’s latenight program, AT&T is this week sponsoring a unique digital-viewing experience for the show: Viewers who turn to the program’s website can view certain segments with a 360-degree perspective as the show airs, catching sight of not only the action, but the audience and everything else on set at a particular moment. Last night’s 360-degree segment featured Conan letting four and a half pounds of Texas red meat loose via a catapult.

“It definitely has not been done on any late-night program,”said Frank Sgrizzi, exec veep of sales and marketing for the entertainment networks owned by Time Warner’s Turner unit. “It has been used in sporting events.” The camera involved can shoot the action from all angles, capturing not only O’Brien as he speaks, but also the audience and whatever is diametrically opposite from him, whether that be Andy Richter or the show’s curtain backdrop.

As more of TV’s latenight programs open their sets to in-show advertising, Turner’s “Conan” gambit appears to take things to a new level: Putting an advertiser on the show without necessarily distracting the viewer with a too-obvious marketing message. Last week, NBC’s “Tonight” introduced a segment involving Ford Motor Co. with an on-screen graphic. O’Brien is making AT&T the turnkey for more of his program’s regular shenanigans.

“We just connect them,” said Jeff Ross, O’Brien’s longtime executive producer, referring to the program as the conduit between the audience and the AT&T-sponsored viewing experience. “In the world of having to do this sort of things, you really try to create ways to do them where the advertiser is happy and we are happy. It’s a little bit of work, but we figure it out.”

The segments started in last night’s show and will continue through Thursday, April 3 while “Conan” is on-location in Dallas for special shows leading-up to Turner’s broadcasts of the NCAA Final Four games.

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