NBC plans push for summer lineup

Mon May 5, 2008 8:43am EDT
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With nearly 300 hours of summer programming on the line, NBC is upping its marketing efforts for its "All-American Summer."

The network has doubled its number of original summer programming hours and its marketing budget in an attempt to shake up the postseason ratings race. Although currently in fourth place, NBC hopes its packed reality slate and the presentation of the Beijing Olympic Games might be enough to overthrow three-time summer ratings winner Fox. Any audience gains also will help NBC sling more viewers into its fall schedule.

NBC's media campaign kicked off Friday with a presentation to the press in Pasadena, California, where wandering gladiators, baby borrowers and circus performers promoted the network's largely reality-driven summer lineup. Starting May 12, the public lobbying and "All-American" branding will unfold with stunts such as a backyard BBQ-style event in Times Square.

"We're spending about twice as much as last year and have the most original programming that any network has ever had during the summer," said NBC chief marketing officer John Miller. "It's a significant effort, and we're having a lot of fun with it."

NBC has scheduled 287 original hours, including eight series. By comparison, CBS is planning about 90 hours, which is a record-breaker for that network.

"Especially with what's happening with the economy, we think people will be spending more time at home and craving something great to watch," said Craig Plestis, NBC's executive vice president alternative programming.

NBC's "America's Got Talent" was the top-rated show of summer 2007. But Fox typically wins the summer race overall, led by "So You Think You Can Dance." Given how much reality programming began to dominate NBC's schedule at the November onset of the three-month Writers Guild of America strike, the network hopes maintaining a packed reality schedule will avoid the usual summer ratings plummet.

"We're in an on-demand culture, and people are not going to sit around for three months waiting for programming to come back," said Mark Koops, managing director of Reveille, whose "Nashville Star" and "American Gladiators" are among NBC's summer lineup. "People are always looking for great television, and you can help build momentum toward the fall."   Continued...

<p>American Gladiators star Mike O'Hearn (A.K.A. Titan) tries out the Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 blaster in New York February 16, 2008. REUTERS/Hasbro/Ray Stubblebine/Handout</p>