Hammer Time for the CW

Microsoft is exclusive sponsor in first series for net's digital studio, the '90s-themed Stupid Hype

All right, stop. Collaborate and listen. The CW is back with a brand new invention. And it’s got Microsoft holding down the beat.

On Tuesday, Nov. 13, the broadcaster’s new digital studio, CWD, will take the wraps off its first original series. Created by and starring Hart of Dixie’s Wilson Bethel, Stupid Hype is a parodic homage to ’90s b-boy culture, replete with the requisite nods to parachute pants and chunky gold rope chains.

Bethel transforms himself into a sort of meta-Vanilla Ice for the role (for the culturally uninitiated, the intro to this story is a riff on Ice’s seminal work, “Ice Ice Baby”). He’s also recruited a number of the era’s luminaries to lend their street cred to the project. Among the familiar faces that pop up over the course of the 70-minute, nine-part series are former Public Enemy hype man/reality show curiosity Flavor Flav and Kenan & Kel alum Kel Mitchell.

As part of a broader integrated marketing deal, Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is exclusive sponsor of Stupid Hype. Along with a heavy presence on CWTV.com, Windows 8 is featured in a vignette demonstrating how Bethel used the OS to write, shoot and edit the series. A 30-second version of the spot will air during Hart of Dixie.

The CW has also begun weaving Windows 8 integrations into some of its prime-time series, a roster of potboilers that includes The Vampire Diaries and Arrow. And as is the case with the digital-only series, vignettes featuring the network’s on-air talent are now rolling out. In one installment, Julie Plec, co-creator and showrunner of TVD, points out that the software allows her to work on multiple episodes of the show at various stages of the development process while serving as a social-media gateway.

The network first began to think strategy with Microsoft and Starcom MediaVest last winter. “It all started coming together in February when Microsoft invited us to do an app for Windows 8,” said Rick Haskins, evp, marketing and digital programs at the CW. “From there it was a matter of deciding what we could do to connect Windows to the CW brand.”

All told, Microsoft is expected to invest between $1.5 billion and $1.7 billion in its overarching Windows 8 marketing blitz, a mammoth outlay that dwarfs the $386 million the company spent on all measured media in 2011.

For the CW’s part, the network hopes the series will curry favor with its target demo of men and women 18-to-34. “This is a model that we may replicate with all of our digital series,” Haskins said. “We’ll see how it plays with viewers and the sponsor.”

Next up for CWD is the animated series Gallery Mallory, which is expected to launch early next year.

In October, the CW became the first net to kick the tires on Nielsen Online Campaign Ratings, a service that delivers comparable metrics for TV and online ad campaigns. “To their credit,” said one buyer, “they’re looking for ways to eliminate duplication of online and TV deliveries.”