New York -- Once Viacom Inc. completes its merger with CBS
Corp., the company will add heavily to its local-media holdings to help drive audiences to
its national cable networks and Web sites.
It's a case of MTV: Music Television meets Mike
Wallace, and analysts debated last week whether the two media giants bring marketing
synergies to the table -- or just disconnected audiences.
At a press conference here last week, Viacom CEO Sumner
Redstone called the companies' assets "highly complementary." He pointed to
Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, which is aimed at a preschool audience, and
CBS' 60 Minutes, which targets viewers on the opposite end of the age
"CBS has been known as being staid, and now,
they're merging with MTV," Rich Heritage Inc. president Terry Rich said.
"It allows CBS to tap into some of the creative talent at Viacom to help attract
younger and niche audiences."
The Yankee Group analyst Bruce Leichtman predicted that
cross-promotions would be plentiful post-merger. "The challenge," he said,
"is to do it correctly. Mike Wallace isn't going to be promoting Beavis &
That's not to say CBS offers no marketing synergies.
In addition to its 212 CBS-owned and affiliate TV stations, it has 163 radio stations and
a large network of outdoor billboards blanketing the country.
Mel Karmazin, current president of CBS and chief operating
officer of Viacom following the merger, said there would be opportunities to cross-promote
MTV on CBS Radio rock stations, much in the same way Country Music Television ran
cross-promotions with CBS Radio country-music stations.
Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing vice
president of marketing Seth Morrison said radio could be effective in branding a cable
network. "Look at Encore," he added. He speculated that Viacom's ownership
of CBS would buy it preferred family pricing for ads.
But beyond advertising messages, radio offers a wide range
of promotional opportunities. "It's the giveaways. It's the DJ talking
about an event, or a radio station co-sponsoring a concert tour," Morrison said.
On the flip side, Morrison imagines that radio
personalities might more easily land guest shots on MTV or VH1, for example. "You can
have a lot of fun with the relationships," he said.
CBS already has a history of cross-promotion, according to
spokesman Dana McClintock. Examples include CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather
giving interviews to local television affiliates and providing commentary on CBS-owned
radio stations, and CBS Television sponsoring the U.S. Open tennis tournament, then
providing analysis on its CBS SportsLine Web site.
CBS is also in talks with one of its cable channels, The
Nashville Network, to co-sponsor an auto-parts show with Wrenchead.com, in which CBS owns
Both Redstone and Karmazin spoke of the value of using its
various media, including billboards, to drive traffic to the companies' various Web
Morrison said billboards are good for building awareness of
companies with a simple, clean message. "There's nothing worse than small print
on a billboard you can't see," he added.
Rich said operators shouldn't be wary that
cross-promotions will drive some cable viewers back to broadcast.
"Until broadcast stations are widely available on DBS
[direct-broadcast satellite]," he added, "promoting broadcast is helpful to
cable because stations are part of the cable lineup."