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Craig Ferguson Spars and Schmoozes at Twentieth TV Upfront

Rethink syndication.

That was the message delivered to advertisers at Twentieth TV’s upfront reception in Gotham Thursday night, an effort to entice advertisers to place some of their media dollars in “Celebrity Name Game,” a gameshow strip bowing this fall with Craig Ferguson at the helm, and other programs distribbed by 21st Century Fox’s syndication unit.

Ferguson’s strip hails from Debmar-Mercury and Coquette Prods., the banner headed by Courteney Cox and David Arquette. (Twentieth TV is handling national advertising sales for the show per its deal with Debmar.)

Ferguson, who will moonlight on the show from his day job hosting CBS’ “Late Late Show,” schmoozed prospective advertisers and engaged in some comedy banter with an unlikely straight man, Michael Teicher, Twentieth TV’s exec VP of media sales. 

“Are you reading off of note cards?” Ferguson teased Teicher after being introduced and called to the stage at Glass Houses.

“I don’t do this every single day for a living,” Teicher retorted. “And by the way I don’t get retakes like you probably will on the gameshow.”

“Was that not a little hostile and defensive?” Ferguson asked the crowd, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the jabs.

“I was going to ask you some softball questions,” Teicher responded. “But now that’s all changed.”

Teicher was of course joking. The conversation then turned to why the comedian decided to take on a second job.

“I wanted to do something that my kids could watch because the ‘Late Late Show’ is kind of dirty,” Ferguson said.

As for why now? Ferguson’s joked, ‘well I’m an evergreen and Courtney and David are powerful and could have me killed.”

The decision to host an upfront in the dead of winter as opposed to the customary spring dates was a no brainer according to Twentieth Television’s prexy Greg Meidel.

“We wanted to be ahead of the curve,” Meidel said. “We have some big returning shows and we have some new shows. So we are a full service bank. We cover every demo.”

“We attack things  a bit differently,” Teicher  added. “We go client by client, brand by brand to do presentations. So we need to start the process a little bit earlier so we have enough runway before leading up to the real decision making time.

Teicher made sure to avoid the word “syndication” in his speech to advertisers.

“We are distributors of quality content that our viewers are passionate about,” the exec said. “Some advertisers stick to traditional methods but the landscape has changed. For instance, DVR is good for us. People don’t record our programs  because our programs are  aired seven days a week so our advertisers have the advantage. The day you want to air your spots those spots will be aired live.”

That line of reasoning. Teicher said, is slowly starting to resonate more with advertisers. In the past, syndication had often been treated as a step-child to network and cable buys, but the format of programs that air five- and seven-day-a weeks, with lots of promotional support from local TV stations, has its advantages in the era of when so much TV viewing is done on a time-shifted basis.

“More and more we are seeing advertisers becoming increasingly flexible with where they are willing to spend their money in places they didn’t in the past,” Teicher said.

(Pictured above: Michael Teicher, Craig Ferguson, Greg Meidel)

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