|USA Network has signed General Motors, New Line Cinema and Miramax to multilayered sponsorships of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which last week launched new episodes on the cable channel.|
Each marketer sponsors an episode of the procedural drama and gets the first or last ad break of the hour, considered prime placement, along with on-screen bugs and text, and end credits. As the sole advertiser in that break, the sponsor owns the commercial pod, which lasts 60 seconds to two minutes. That's shorter than average (pods are usually twice as long) and returns viewers to the show in less time. Financial terms were not disclosed.
"Since this is a brand new series for us, we wanted to create fresh opportunities for advertisers," said Chris McCumber, svp-marketing and brand strategy at USA Network, New York. "They can own a piece of the show they can't get elsewhere."
Law & Order: CI, which premiered on NBC in 2001, had dropped to No. 59 in the final 2006-07 ratings with 8.8 million viewers and was facing cancellation. The shift to sibling USA has been heavily promoted on-air with spots across NBC Universal's channels, in print and online.
General Motors used the premiere episode Oct. 4 to support Chevrolet's eco-friendly vehicles. On Oct. 11 New Line Cinema will run a 60-second sneak peek of its political thriller Rendition starring Meryl Streep and Reese Witherspoon, which hits theaters Oct. 19. The following week, Miramax will air an exclusive trailer of its kidnap mystery, Gone Baby Gone, which is being released Oct. 19.
The strategy is part of USA Network's focus on original programming on Thursdays (The Starter Wife, Burn Notice). L&O: CI goes up against 10 p.m. broadcast juggernauts ER (NBC) and Without a Trace (CBS).
Future deals are expected to branch out to offer marketers exposure across Law & Order: CI real estate, including on-air promos, text messaging, fan sites, custom flash games and other digital exposure. More sponsor deals are being negotiated. USA Network plans to apply this formula to its other original fares, said McCumber.