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Samantha Bee’s Facebook Experiment: AT&T Works to Stream ‘Full Frontal’ Preview

Samantha Bee is taking her weekly TBS program, “Full Frontal,” to Facebook – well, for at least ten minutes.

As part of a sponsorship deal with AT&T, Bee will offer users of the social-media outlet a look behind the scenes of her edgy comedy show as it gears up for a taping this evening in front of an audience. Facebook users will be able to see Allana Harkin, a member of the show’s staff, warm up the audience, and then catch Bee as she greets the audience and even takes questions from both the crowd in front of her as well as Facebook users. The hostess is expected to acknowledge AT&T as the sponsor of the new access granted to fans in her own words as part of the agreement.

“We have so much show to get into thirty minutes,” said Alison Camillo, one of the producers of “Full Frontal,” in an interview. “Any way you can find so you have room for more content, the better.”

AT&T is just one of several advertisers trying to make new connections with TV’s late-night audience. Last week,  McDonald’s and Coca-Cola arranged a joint deal that put products from both companies into the popular “Carpool Karaoke” segment on James Corden’s “Late Late Show” on CBS. NBCUniversal recently enlisted Seth Meyers to do a live ad for Chrysler’s Pacifica. Apple in October used a performance by Ryan Adams on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” to run an ad at the bottom of the screen during the program for its streaming Apple Music service. These deals are just two of many that have begun to crop up across late-night programming, as Madison Avenue craves a more obvious presence while Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and the rest deliver riffs on the headlines and interview celebrities.

AT&T sees value in aligning its pitch to consumers with a specific personality, said Valerie Vargas, vice president of advertising, social and emerging media for AT&T Entertainment Group, in an interview. And the company wants to get its messages in front of consumers gaining access to video entertainment in new ways, she added. “There’s clearly an appetite for this type of video consumption> We are finding ways to try to play with it, explore it, and see what kind of interaction we have with the fans by doing so.”

The telecommunications giant has tested several new ad ideas with TBS. In 2014, AT&T sponsored an opportunity to see select segments of “Conan” with a 360-degree perspective on the show’s web site. Viewers who tried out the technology saw host Conan O’Brien letting loose four and a half pounds of Texas red meat with a catapult.

The live stream on Facebook is “a great way for people like Sam and others to connect with their audiences in a new way,” said Dan Riess, executive vice president of content partnerships for Time Warner’s Turner, which operates TBS. “It’s very intimate, and very immediate and it’s a good way for us to add additional heft and scale” to an ad deal with AT&T, which has sponsored the show since March.

“Full Frontal” producers have proven willing to allow other advertisers to connect to the show. Last week, TBS ran a commercial break during the June 20th edition of the show that contained a single ad approximately 90 seconds in length for Seventh Generation feminine-care products. During the commercial, comic actress Maya Rudolph sings an ode to tampons and feminine pads and the female body. A shot of the Seventh Generation logo on the “Full Frontal” set was spotted before the show cut to the ad and an announcer mentioned the commercial upon the program’s return.

“What we are always looking for is something that works with the voice of our show.I do not think we want to do anything that works in direct opposition to our voice,” said Camillo, the producer. “We have a very specific point of view and we are trying to keep that as pure as possible.” Two weeks ago, when Bee opened the program with a blistering tirade about the recent shootings in Orlando, a nod to AT&T that typically takes place in the program’s first ad break was moved to later in  its half-hour broadcast, a clear effort to separate an advertiser from a raw point of view.

The Facebook live-stream is being viewed as an experiment by producers, the network and AT&T. “If we find that it’s a really strong perforamnce, and it’s something she [Samantha Bee] as the creator is interested in, it’s something we will talk about,” said Vargas.

The hours before taping can be hectic at “Full Frontal, “ Camillo said. Last-minute changes require the crew to rework everything from graphics to cue cards. And sometimes, the show’s taping, which is supposed to begin at 5:45 p.m., can get pushed back. Yet staffers are determined that things will launch on time, so that the Facebook live-stream can start ten minutes before Bee hits the stage in earnest. “We’ve been planning for the past couple of weeks to make sure everything goes smoothly,” said Camillo. “We’ve got to start on time.”

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