The CW television network discovered something interesting this season when it aired two-minute commercials that told a mini-story: They got better ratings than the shows on which they aired.
So on Thursday the network announced a new magazine-style program that is in effect a half-hour ad. Episodes of “CW Now” will be sponsored by three to four unspecified advertisers whose products will be woven into the show.
The move is the latest sign that television networks are furiously trying to find ways to help advertisers reach viewers as more homes become equipped with digital video recorders that enable people to skip over commercials.
“We’re in the world of trying new things,” said Bill Morningstar, head of advertising sales for the CW, a joint venture of CBS Corp. and Warner Bros. Entertainment. “The goal is to have it be completely nontraditional.”
“CW Now” will air Sundays at 7 p.m. and will be produced by the makers of Warner Bros.’ syndicated celebrity magazine show “Extra.” Instead of being packed with news about Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, the show will delve into trends and the latest hot clubs and destinations.
The CW isn’t the only network presenting commercials as entertainment. NBC Universal is bringing back the peacock network’s beloved comic Jerry Seinfeld to produce up to two-minute bits that go behind of the scenes of the upcoming “Bee Movie” he created with DreamWorks Animation. NBC is helping shoulder the cost of production.
For the CW, the show represents low-cost programming and a further evolution into the realm of product integration to help advertisers reach elusive viewers. Advertisers are especially interested in experiments that help find younger viewers, a notoriously fickle group. With the CW targeting viewers ages 18 to 34, “CW Now” could prove something of a marketing petri dish.
“All of the networks are trying to figure out how to get advertisers on more platforms. It’s smart business,” said Robert Riesenberg, chief executive of Full Circle Entertainment, the entertainment production arm of advertising giant Omnicom.
A year ago the CW introduced its two-minute commercials, called “content wraps,” which progressively tell an entertaining story over a given night. Morningstar said the network had expected to run a limited number, but advertisers liked them.
The network also introduced “Cwickies” (pronounced quickies), which will be five-second commercials. The CW will sell six Cwickies for its various two-hour prime-time programming blocks to the same advertiser, allowing messages to unfold in bursts instead of as one 30-second spot.