NBC is sprinkling a little pixie dust around its coming broadcast of “Peter Pan Live!” in hopes of luring advertisers to what is a rather high-priced program for commercials.
The Peacock is talking up the show’s broad appeal among families, as well as the fact that viewers who tune into the live December 4 live broadcast won’t be able to skip past ads, according to a person familiar with the situation. And NBC is telling potential sponsors they can expect to see similar kinds of content cropping up across the holdings of its parent company, NBCUniversal, this person said. “Peter Pan Live” will feature “Girls” actress Allison Williams in the title role of the 1954 musical.
In exchange, the network is seeking between $350,000 and $400,000 for a 30-second ad in the show – one of the highest prices on broadcast television this fall. One ad buyer suggested the network would be willing to take less, maybe $345,000.
NBC has reason to boost “Pan,” which will mark its second attempt at running a Broadway-style holiday extravaganza (it aired a live three-hour version of “The Sound of Music’ featuring Carrie Underwood last December): With live sports broadcasts continuing to attract large audiences – and the ad dollars that follow them – many TV outlets want to try their hand at other sorts of live events. On November 2, for example, Discovery Communications’ flagship Discovery Channel is set to air a live broadcast of daredevil Nik Wallenda attempting to walk between Chicago skyscrapers. ABC recently interjected live segments of the stars of “Nashville” singing songs as part of the episode’s ongoing storyline.
An NBCUniversal spokeswoman said ad-sales executives were not available to comment.
By many views, “Peter Pan” is expected to perform well for NBC. It will air on Thursday, December 4, a time in the programming cycle when many networks air fewer originals and put some dramas and comedies on a short holiday hiatus. But there is a sense among media-buying executives that it may not perform as well as “Sound of Music,” which notched 18.5 million live viewers and nearly 22 million who watched it either live or up to a week after its debut on December 5, 2013.
“I am sure NBC will put heavy promotion behind it and I think it will definitely be a win for them…just not an 18 million viewer win,” said Billie Gold, vice president and director of buying and programming research at ad=buying firm Carat. Audiences will not be as familiar with Allison Williams, she said, as they were with Carrie Underwood.
“Carrie Underwood has a huge country audience that followed her to the tube, and I think that is part of the equation,” said Gold. Christopher Walken has been enlisted to play Captain Hook.
In 2013, NBC made an effort to foster a strong connection between one “Sound of Music” sponsor and the show itself. The network created ads for Walmart that used the large Brooks family of Gardner, Kansas, which has 12 children, and depicted them doing things to some of the most popular tunes from the show. When the parents tried to wean the kids from using electronic devices (available for purchase at Walmart) so they could all go to sleep, they did it to the strains of “So Long, Farewell.” Other ads used songs such as “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things.”
Even at the $345,000 price cited by the ad buyer, “Peter Pan” would be one of the most expensive programs on TV this season for advertisers. According to Variety’s annual survey of commercial prices in primetime, a 30-second ad in the most costly scripted series on broadcast television – CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” – costs an average of $327,885. Only football broadcasts and a package of ads in AMC’s “The Walking Dead” would cost more than “Peter Pan,” according to the survey’s findings, which means that “Peter Pan” will soar above other programs in at least one way, no matter how many people tune in to watch it.