New age marketing for TV shows

When the last episode of Dallas was aired over the summer of 1980, 76% of turned-on American TVs had tuned in to follow the saga's epilogue, an all-time record. But with the advent of the web and on-demand media, networks have to pull new tricks to retain viewers: they have to turn shows into communities.

by Knowledge@Wharton
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

ABC's "Lost" – the story of a group of castaways stuck on a haunted Pacific island after a suspicious plane crash – has spearheaded the trend. The series counts millions of fanatical viewers and thousands of dedicated websites, and the show's producers have been quick to exploit this captive audience.

Fictitious ads have featured during episodes linking organisations that existed in the show and in 'real life'. Similarly, ABC orchestrated the launch of a book written by one of the show's main characters, which fans rushed to buy. Many also expect a video game to be spun off the series.

This high level of interactivity is a perfect example of what many now call the 'experience economy'. The term was first coined in a 1988 Harvard Business Review article by Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore where they suggested that the world had shifted through different economies: agrarian, industrial, service and now experience. What makes it stand out from service economy is that "experiences are inherently personal, existing only in the mind of an individual who has been engaged on an emotional, physical, intellectual or even spiritual level".

Many networks are now calling on this unique dimension and sense of community to ensure ratings. Wharton marketing professor Barbara Khan says that "people refer to this as 'co-production', where consumers themselves are taking part in the production of the product."

With this multitude of means and events surrounding TV shows, marketers must re-evaluate their strategies. Some companies have even started amalgamating advertising budgets (which used to be segmented in print, web, TV etc) in an effort to better coordinate their promotion campaigns. Perhaps another good indication of changing times is the recent purchase of the popular virtual community website 'MySpace' by giant News Corp, Fox's parent company.

Source: Finding New Opportunities to Market 'Lost' and Other TV Shows

Review by Emilie Filou

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