Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Monsters Inc., Lord of the Rings, Behind Enemy Lines, Spy Game
and Ocean's Eleven
aren't the only competitors vying for attention in movie theaters.
An increasing number of cable and broadcast networks have turned to the big screen to reach consumers, purchasing the "pre-show" commercial time that National Cinema Network packages in U.S. theaters. That includes NBC, which will use the silver screen to plug upcoming cable and broadcast coverage of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Noggin — the educational network jointly programmed by Nickelodeon and Sesame Workshop — is the latest cable network to make a cinema buy. And several Turner Broadcasting System Inc. networks have signed renewals with NCN.
NBC has just broadened its month-long Olympic buy from 3,660 screens in the top 25 markets to nearly 6,000 screens, said NCN vice president of marketing Laura Adler. Spots touting "The Complete Olympics" on the Peacock Network, CNBC and MSNBC will also be expanded from 30 to 90 seconds in length.
Adler declined to disclose NBC's in-cinema ad budget. But NCN's clients generally spend from $250,000 to more than $1 million for an average one-month stint, she said, depending on how many markets they buy and whether signage, branded popcorn boxes or other elements are also purchased.
Most of NCN's television and cable programmers run 30- to 60-second spots.
The action-packed, James Bond-like spot for NBC will feature Olympics snowboarder Chris Klug as he's pursued by patrol cars, snowmobiles and even helicopters, said a spokeswoman for NBC Agency, the network's in-house ad shop.
In a spot that also features women's ice hockey gold medalist Cammi Granato, Klug literally crashes a game. Granato scores by pushing a patrol car into the net.
Spotting a beautiful girl on his way out of the arena, Klug tells her to meet him in Salt Lake City in February — just as he's whisked away in a chopper.
NBC has cut that cinema spot into smaller promos to run on its own air, Adler said.
A more patriotic spot built around the 1980s Neil Diamond hit "America" is also in the works. "We're still finalizing things on that," an MSNBC spokeswoman said.
NBC's Olympics spot — which will run prior to a cinema's main feature, before the house lights go down — will appear with January releases The Shipping News, Road to Perdition
and I Am Sam, as well as December holdovers Lord of the Rings
and Ali, said NCN's Adler.
NOGGIN NETS 'POTTER'
Most networks don't specify particular movie titles for their cinema buys, but Noggin did for its campaign. Adler said the diginet's spot was slated to run with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
on 471 screens through mid-December.
All told, NCN sells commercial inventory on some 10,500 movie screens owned by 25 theater chains, including American Multi-Cinema, National Amusements Inc. and United Artists.
Last summer, when The Mummy Returns
and Jurassic Park III
were box-office hits, Cartoon Network bought in-lobby signage, alongside spots, for its "Toonami" anime programming block. And this fall, the Fox broadcast network added NCN's "CineBuckets" (popcorn buckets) to plug the new primetime series 24.
Other broadcasters that bought NCN this fall included ABC, for Alias
and its package of "James Bond" theatrical films, and The WB, for Smallville.
Cartoon will break a new branding campaign via NCN on Dec. 21, Adler said. The network has not yet indicated whether signage will again be part of the mix.
Two other Turner networks are also NCN repeat customers. Turner Network Television — which earlier this year called attention to Witchblade
— in late November plugged Call MeClaus, an original holiday movie starring Whoopi Goldberg. And Turner Classic Movies has again booked a February buy to support its "31 Days of Oscar" movie package, according to Adler.
Other recent NCN cable customers included Discovery Channel, which used lobby danglers and standee displays for Walking with Dinosaurs
and Raising the Mammoth; and Sci Fi Channel, which promoted the miniseries Dune
in December of 2000.
Although NCN conducted consumer research that showed strong recall for those in-cinema spots, Adler said, Discovery did not return for Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, which premiered Dec. 9.
Networks buy in-cinema spots mainly because "the demos are right for them," said NCN's Adler.
"Adults 18-to-34 and 18-to-49 are 78 percent of our audience, and they're a captive audience," she said. "Our recall scores speak to that."
The cinema network, which reaches an estimated 75 million moviegoers per month, said that filmgoers aged 18-to-34 make up 47 percent of its 18-to-49-year-old audience. Seventy-eight percent of NCN's sample base recalled the pre-show spots last year, Adler noted.
And 76 percent of theatergoers make $30,000 per year or more in household income, NCN estimated. Almost 53 percent earn $50,000 or more.
NCN's client roster also includes Burger King Corp., The Coca-Cola Co., Ford Motor Co. and Nike Inc.