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Viacom Hopes to Lure ‘Event’ Ads to New Paramount Network

Variety logo Variety 4/26/2017 Brian Steinberg
© Provided by Variety

Viacom hopes to turn some kinds of TV advertising into a must-see event.

When the company’s Paramount Network formally launches early next year, executives want some of the commercials to be as can’t-miss as some of the series they expect to run. Among discussions being held with advertisers are running programs with limited commercials as well as getting first-run ads that have not been seen elsewhere, said Sean Moran, Viacom’s head of sales.

“Premium storytelling is what the channel is all about,” said Moran. “That gives us a format that could let clients” tell some interesting tales of their own. “It comes from the idea that people actually do enjoy commercials if they are given the right creative,” he added.

Viacom heads to TV’s annual “upfront” market under new leadership and a new strategic direction. Under new Chief Executive Bob Bakish, the New York owner of Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central has focused more intently on six core networks – the three aforementioned outlets as well as Paramount, BET and Nick Jr. – and has expressed a desire to operate its assets with a more global strategy in mind.

Moran says the company wants to offer advertisers the chance to work on initiatives that span Viacom’s many networks as well as its global reach. More media companies, including NBCUniversal, are working to get advertisers to take part in so-called “cross platform” deals that have them devise broader packages of ad inventory across a wider portfolio of holdings. Viacom is touting the ability of its TV networks to reach younger consumers, using not only linear TV advertising, but also ad content tailored for specific programming and experiences as well as custom data that helps marketers place their commercials more precisely depending on the consumers they wish to reach.

The company is also touting a greater emphasis on involving advertisers in experiences. Comedy Central, for example, has unveiled plans to launch the “Colossal Clusterfest,” a three-day event that will feature comedy showcases, music, podcast recordings and collaborations by the artists attending, all held at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium from Friday, June 2 to Sunday June 4. Comedy Central plans to air a 90-minute live special from the event on June 4. “Experiences are like the new currency,” said Moran, citing a recent internal study showing millennials often seek life experiences they can share with friends via social media.

Moran said the company is anticipating a healthy upfront, when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming season.  Among the factors he cited for his outlook were the health of the general economy; a White House effort to roll back some government regulations that might encourage corporations to spend more; and growing concerns over the quality of digital advertising. He said telecommunications marketers and movie studios appeared poised to spend robustly on advertising during the next programming cycle.

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