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CW TV network to try ‘mini-shows’

Networks hopes two-minute commercials will stop viewers from clicking
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boy and girl are set up on a blind date, get makeovers, meet, and the result is not a reality TV show but a two-minute commercial in disguise.

In an effort to keep viewers from skipping ads — whether the old-fashioned way, by fleeing the room, or the TiVo high-tech, fast-forward method — the newly created CW network is introducing a new forum for sponsors called “content wraps.”

The blind date saga, one of various forms the spots are expected to take, is intended to hook viewers on a “mini-show” that promotes companies and products, CW executives said.

The content wraps will replace national advertising on an occasional basis on CW and will play at the beginning, middle and end of a program.

“Why should consumers say at the commercial break, ‘I can go to the bathroom’? Why shouldn’t they say, ‘I see something entertaining worth watching’?” said Paul Morningstar, executive vice president of media sales for the network.

The wraps also would have online and wireless tie-ins, he said. For instance, viewers could visit the CW’s Internet site for a chance to be featured in the blind date spot and later could track the outcome — as well as get more product details.

“What this really is is an experiment. We want to see how this works,” CW Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff told a meeting of the Television Critics Association on Monday.

Advertisers have told the network they want to see a reinvention of the wheel, she said.

“There has to be another way for the advertisers to communicate to their clients and a way for us to all work together and do something different and innovative,” Ostroff said.

The network has had a “great response” from companies, she said. Several have signed up, Morningstar said, declining to identify them.

CW will begin its fall lineup, its first, on Sept. 20 with a two-hour episode of “America’s Next Top Model.” The new network is an amalgam of WB and UPN series and new fare.

Its schedule includes “7th Heaven,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Girlfriends” and “Everybody Hates Chris,” which will feature Whoopi Goldberg as a guest star in two episodes. New series are “Runaway” with Donnie Wahlberg and “The Game” with Tia Mowry.

Finding ways to reach viewers outside of the traditional commercial has become a holy grail for the broadcast networks, especially since digital video recorders like TiVo have made bypassing ad spots easy.

Product placement within series has been one answer, although some series producers have balked at their shows being used as direct sales platforms.

In a promotional tape played at the TV critics’ meeting Monday, the wraps were described as “an entertaining environment to get your brand message to consumers” and the blind-date example was shown.

One scene showed a woman being introduced to a “fabulous” cosmetic, while another had a man being fitted with a “brand new” contact lens, apparent examples of product promotion.