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For Your Consideration

7/25/2011 11:01 AM Eastern

Until AMC premiered its first original drama
series, Mad Men, in 2007, the cable channel
was known mostly for airing classic theatrical
movies from years past, and was barely
on the radar of advertisers and their media
agencies.

Today, AMC is one of the most buzzworthy
networks within the ad community as a result of Mad Men and
its Outstanding Drama Emmy Award wins in 2008, 2009 and
2010 , and it’s nominated again this year.

emmy-statue300.jpgAMC had followed a pattern similar to Fox-owned cable network
FX a few years earlier. FX spent most of the 1990s airing
repeats of 1960-80s off -network dramas like Wonder Woman
and Batman, along with Fox broadcast network repeats. Even
with Major League Baseball and NASCAR sports programming,
it was not close to the top of any media buyer’s list.

But in 2002, FX premiered its first original drama series,
The Shield, for which the show’s star, Michael Chiklis, won
that year’s Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor in a Dramatic
Series. Since then, FX has been a destination not only
for advertisers, but also for producers of top-flight dramas.

How important to those two networks were winning the
Emmy Awards? Huge. The Emmys put them on the map, both
with advertisers and viewers. The broadcast networks, around
much longer than cable, were old pros at campaigning for
Emmy Awards. But after The Shield propelled FX to viewer
and advertiser notoriety, the cable networks jumped on the
bandwagon, too.

These days, more cable networks are spending more
money to produce original series that rival anything on
broadcast television.

CAMPAIGN SEASON

Campaigning for the Emmy Awards has become a major
project for cable networks over the past decade. Some programmers
spend as much as $2 million to try to reach the
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ 14,000 voting members
in an attempt to get them to watch and then nominate
their shows for awards in assorted categories.

For a cable network, spending $1 million dollars on campaigning
might be a small fee to convince those Academy
members to vote for its show. Today AMC, FX and USA
Network are competing for ad dollars with the broadcast
networks, who sell mostly mass-audience reach to advertisers.
A hit show on cable could be a marginal show on
broadcast; Mad Men would
not be considered a hit on
broadcast based on its total
viewers. But with its 2.9 million
viewers, the show has
buzz, mainly created by its
Emmy wins.

The same goes for another
AMC original series drama
hit, and Emmy winner,
Breaking Bad. When the
series premiered in 2008,
it drew 1.4 million viewers
and, according to AMC Networks
chief operating officer
Ed Carroll, was shunned
by advertisers because of its
storyline.

Breaking Bad is about
a high-school chemistry
teacher, played by Bryan
Cranston, who is diagnosed
with lung cancer and begins
making and selling methamphetamines
with a former student for money to leave
his family after he dies.

“The subject of the series is edgy and when we first went
out to sell it to advertisers, they were squeamish,” Carroll
recalled. “But once Cranston was nominated for an Emmy
and won in the show‘s first year, it validated the show as a
quality show for viewers and a quality place to be for advertisers.”

Cranston has won the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
Emmy three years in a row now, and Breaking Bad premiered
its fourth season earlier this month with 2.6 million
viewers watching, 85% more
than watched the series premiere
three years ago.

USA capitalized on an
Emmy win with a neurotic
detective. For years, it too
ran off-broadcast network
repeats until it introduced
Monk, its own original comedy
series, in 2002. Monk did well from the start, drawing
4.8 million viewers in its premiere, but sustained an average
of more than 5 million viewers for its eight-year run,
primed by show lead Tony Shalhoub winning the Outstanding
Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy three times, beginning
in 2003.

Since then, the network has put on its schedule a number
of shows popular among viewers and advertisers, including
Psych, Burn Notice, Royal Pains and Fairly Legal,
becoming another destination that studios and producers
look at when pitching shows, and helping the network average
among the most viewers each week on cable.

BUYERS SEE THE HALO

Brent Poer, executive vice president and managing director
at media agency MediaVest, said, “any award a series
wins shines a halo on that show. Many award winning
shows don’t have big viewership but have buzz. And Emmy
award winning shows tend to have more affluent viewers.”
And that, he said, is attractive to advertisers. “Mad
Men
doesn’t have huge ratings, but it has created a cultural
conversation surrounding AMC, and this has translated
into the network becoming a good place to put down
ad dollars,” he said.

Poer said campaigning widely for Emmys can create an
aura around a network that it can then use to bring in top
talent and better shows.

“HBO has done an amazing job of creating a perception
that their network has better quality programming and because
of that they can charge cable operators more to carry
their network and bring in top stars for their shows,” he said.

Poer said the money spent by cable networks to campaign
for the Emmys is well-spent. “It drives awareness
about cable programming overall and cable has shown
so much ad growth that it is now on par with overall
broadcast ad dollars.”

Dave Campanelli, vice
president and director of national
television at Horizon
Media, said that at upfront
time, when the agencies
put their clients’ ad dollars
down for the season ahead,
a show with buzz sometimes
get more ad support than a
show with better ratings. “In one upfront [USA’s] Burn Notice
had better ratings than [AMC’s] Mad Men, but Mad
Men
had the buzz and that’s where the money went.”

Still, Campanelli said, an Emmy win doesn’t guarantee ad
revenue. “It does draw ad-client interest or notice to a show.
But none of our clients are telling us that a show just won an
Emmy so we need to put some advertising into that show.”

Amy Sotiridy, senior vice president and director of national
broadcast at Initiative, is more dismissing of the
Emmys as an advertiser draw. “Just because a show wins an Emmy, doesn’t mean I will spend more client money on
it,“ Sotiridy said. “An Emmy is not the be all and end all.
I’m looking for the best way to get my client’s business.”

A show’s audience demographics are an important
factor, as are the overall viewer numbers. If an Emmy
win helps attract a more upscale audience, advertisers
will notice. “But from a buying point, an Emmy alone is
not something I consider that important,” Sotiridy said.

Nonetheless, networks continue to spend on mailings,
screeners and advertising. HBO and Showtime
spend considerably more than basic-cable networks
promoting only a handful of shows. Sources familiar
with those campaigns say HBO spending is in the $2
million range promoting 39 different series, miniseries
and movies this year, with mailings for each of those
categories.

“The main goal of HBO’s Emmy campaign is to provide
Emmy voters with the opportunity to see HBO’s
programming, since the network is only in 28 million
homes of the 115 million TV households,” said Quentin
Schaffer, senior vice president of corporate communications
at HBO, which received 105 nominations this
year. “By doing so, we create a more level playing field.
It is then entirely up to the programming to impress the
Academy.”

Schaffer would not discuss
how much HBO spends
on its Emmy campaigning,
but said, “It’s difficult to
put a price on winning an
Emmy award but it clearly
brings great attention for
your network with a large
national audience and also
resonates in the creative community.” Not only does HBO
campaign — it parties for the Emmy too, hosting one of
the hottest tickets in town for post-Emmy Awards telecast
party for 1,500 invited guests including agents, producers,
writers, directors and actors.

“When Toni Collette won Outstanding
Actress in a Comedy for United States of
Tara
in 2009 and Edie Falco won Outstanding
Actress for Nurse Jackie last
year, those were important drawing
cards for viewers to those shows and
the network,” Showtime executive vice
president of corporate communications
Richard Licata, who has been doing
Emmy campaigns for more than three
decades at assorted networks, said.
“Winning an Emmy makes it worthwhile
in viewers’ minds to pay to watch
the network.”

“Before 2003, Showtime was basically
an original movie channel,” Licata said.
“Then we got into producing original series
and that’s what ultimately defines a
network.”

Licata said every network is looking for
an edge in trying to gain the attention of
Academy members. This year, he bought “For Your Consideration”
promotional ads on digital billboards on 150 buses
in Los Angeles. Showtime also sent out its DVD packets
in February, before the other
networks.

He said, though, that
Emmys are just “one spoke
in a network’s promotional
wheel. You have to be doing
marketing and publicity for
shows on a year-round basis.”

Some network leaders say
they don’t have a choice but to campaign hard. FX president
John Landgraf agreed, saying that a channel can’t just
rely on viewers to find good programming on their own.
“It’s not just enough to make good shows,” he said. “Those
shows have to get recognition so that people who are not
watching them can find them.”

Landgraf said with so many networks and so many
quality shows it is vital for each network “to fight for its
fair share of credit and acclaim.” He added, “We have no
choice but to fight for Emmy nominations. Not doing it
would doom us.”

Landgraf believes a sizable number of Academy voters
who are older and grew up watching only the broadcast
networks and might still not watch much cable network
programming. So sending out program DVDs and booklets
highlighting the shows is a way to make it easier for
these members to view shows they might normally not be
watching on a regular basis.

Landgraf said the campaigning to win Emmys is not directed
at bringing in more ad dollars as much as it is building
the brand in the minds of the viewers.

Another twist, Landgraf said, is that cable networks that
produce programming that is a bit edgier and not what is considered
to be traditional television with known
themes often have a harder time getting those edgy
shows nominated for Emmy consideration.

It’s also important that the Academy members
get to see these shows, another reason to
justify the bucks spent on mailing out DVD
packages, which cost about $100,000 per mailing
per network.

AMC MAKES A ‘KILLING’

That certainly applied to AMC this year and
its new series, The Killing, a show whose title
alone might cause advertisers some concern
and Academy members to not consider it.
The Killing received six nominations, including
Mireille Enos for Outstanding Actress in a
Drama Series and Michelle Forbes for Best Supporting
Actress. Carroll is hoping the series will
follow the same pattern as Breaking Bad and
become a sustained hit.

Networks can also use Emmy leverage when
they have to negotiate with cable operators for
new carriage deals. While Carroll would not say
how much AMC is receiving per viewer now, he
believes that the offering multi Emmy-winning
shows and the buzz surrounding the network
has propelled it into the 75 cents-per-subscriber
price range.

“No broadcast network’s dramas have had
the impact our dramas have had,” Carroll
said.

October