The Word On Placement: It’s Following The Script

Nets ready spate of new deals for next season … and they’re not just for reality TV

Product integration, now de rigeur in reality programming, is taking over scripted shows as well, with a flurry of embedded-content deals shaping next season’s network fare.

Les Moonves, co-president and co-COO of Viacom, where he oversees CBS and UPN, predicted that in three or four TV seasons, as much as 75 percent of all prime-time broadcast scripted shows will carry some element of product placement.

“On CBS, we’ll have about three [scripted] shows that, by the end of the fourth quarter, will have some product-integration elements in them,” Moonves said. He would not identify the shows, saying the details were still being worked out with advertisers.

Other networks are making a big push into product placement as well. The WB, for example, has created a special program under which advertisers can pick a scripted show and become its exclusive product- integration partner. The Preferred Partnership program, a joint effort between The WB sales and marketing departments and various studios, already has landed deals with Verizon for the new season of Smallville and Procter & Gamble for that of What I Like About You.

Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins, the producers involved in the product-integration deals for The WB shows, also are involved in a partnership with the ABC summer drama The Days. That show was financed by WPP Group media shop MindShare, which will receive a portion of the show’s back-end revenue if it gets into syndication, as well as a portion of the 30-second spots and some product placement for agency clients Sears and Unilever.

Peter Tortorici, the former CBS Entertainment president who now serves as director of programming at MindShare, said he is talking with two other networks about similar projects, adding that the next could be finalized and announced late in the fourth quarter or by early January.

At NBC, this season will see a unique pact involving American Dreams and Campbell Soup. Two years ago, said NBC Universal Television Networks president Jeff Zucker, Dreams executive producer Jonathan Prince suggested working in old spots from current advertisers, such as Coca-Cola, into TV sequences on the show, which takes place in the early 1960s. Zucker said that at the time, NBC decided to pass, but now it is moving on a different idea.

Unscripted programming, meanwhile, isn’t slowing down its run in the product-placement arena. Fox’s new The Complex: Malibu, which premieres Aug. 30, has a major sponsorship element from Sears. In the show, couples compete with their neighbors to see who can do the best renovation job on a tight budget. Sears is supplying all the renovation materials and appliances.

And the Donald Trump über- reality hit The Apprentice will include a massive amount of advertiser involvement this coming season, according to producer Mark Burnett. Virtually all of the tasks undertaken on the show will involve company tie-ins. Burnett said sponsors include Mattel and Toys R Us. (One of the tasks will be for each of the two teams to build a toy—one that Mattel will eventually make and sell at Toys R Us.)