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By Andrea Figler - April 30, 2001

Jill Brody, director of promotion for E! Networks, says the L.A. Office RoadShow will help major corporations preview upcoming network shows to see if they can incorporate their products into future programming without jeopardizing the show's integrity."

Several cable networks are going Hollywood in pursuit of a larger share of advertiser marketing dollars.

Networks such as Lifetime Television, TBS Superstation, and E! Networks plan to spend three days this fall in relatively new territory - The Los Angeles Road Show, a meeting place for Hollywood studios to connect with corporate sponsors.

The event, which began a few years ago as a way for movie studios to access promotional advertising dollars and exposure, plans to open its doors to television networks, both broadcast and cable, for the first time this September. Executives from Lifetime, E! Networks and TBS Superstation all lobbied the RoadShow's president Mitch Litvak to open the event's doors.

"It seemed like such a great event so I thought it would be a great opportunity for us to be pitching our shows," says Adam Lewinson, director of West Coast Promotions for Lifetime.

Lewinson, who attended the RoadShow for his previous employer Columbia Pictures, wanted the RoadShow to open its doors so Lifetime could pitch itself as the No. 1 primetime network targeting women. He'll try to lure sponsors to help promote the network's shows and events such as an annual program called Women Rock!, a concert with top female rock artists. In the past, restaurant chain Hard Rock Café was a third-party partner, which sold Women Rock! merchandise and promoted the concert in its cafes. In turn, the chain was given 30-second vignettes during the concert's broadcast as well as features in an auction held within the show itself.

These deals help bring more money and promotion to networks as well as more exposure to advertisers.

The RoadShow will make it easier for all parties to negotiate the kind of multi-platform deals that become more significant for networks if technologies such as personal video recorders and video-on-demand take off. Personal video recorders, which allow viewers to skip commercials, pose a threat to corporations advertising via television, while marketing partnerships keep a sponsor's message attached to programming.

One marketing executive for a major food and beverage corporation says advertisers are quietly scared silly about these new services. Therefore, product placement - in which corporations pay to have their product incorporated into a program or movie - will become more and more important, he says.

Corporations will pay top dollar for product placement as long as it doesn't threaten the integrity of a show, because consumers won't believe the show, let alone buy the product, if the product placement significantly influences the programming, he adds.

Jill Brody, director of promotion for E! Networks, says the L.A. Office RoadShow will help major corporations preview upcoming network shows to see if they can incorporate their products into future programming without jeopardizing the show's integrity.

Fox Cable Network Group serves as a good example of how networks use product placement, she explains. The cable net group had Dr Pepper in its Party of Five episodes, she says. Before this RoadShow, Fox and Dr. Pepper had to find each other independently. Come this September, the RoadShow will allow all the networks to brainstorm programming tie-ins with any interested corporate sponsors.

At the RoadShow, Brody says E! Networks will not only find new corporate sponsors for its programming, but can also use its shows as leverage to get deals with Hollywood movies.
"There's not a better place than E! when it comes to movies," she says, since the network focuses on entertainment around the clock. It also has an integrated Web site to highlight marketing and promotional campaigns.

For example, E! had an online store devoted solely to Universal Pictures' adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The network also ran a sweepstakes for the movie and produced a behind-the-scenes program about the filming of the Grinch to promote the movie's theatrical opening.

Linda Yaccarino, SVP-general sales manager for TBS Superstation, also wants to attend the RoadShow to target Hollywood studios directly. She says TBS Superstation and Turner Network Television present studios with a great opportunity to promote movies before their debuts. Like E!, the networks' parent company AOL Time Warner has a range of outlets, ranging from the Time Inc. magazines to America Online, to promote a movie. The changes in technology facing television make the networks inclusion in the RoadShow even more significant, she says.

"In this environment that we're in, every dollar is critical," Yaccarino says.