- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

‘Idol’s‘ idols

If you just can’t wait for the finale of “American Idol” tonight, you’re in luck. Fox is giving you a fix with the “American Idol: Red Carpet Spectacular,” a half-hour prefinale event.

Starting at 7:30, the live special features L.A.’s top-rated morning show team from “Good Day L.A.” conducting celebrity interviews from the red carpet outside Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.

Branding the lot

Steven Spielberg is no stranger to product integration in his films, from the renowned Reese’s Pieces in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” to the Gap, Lexus and Reebok in “Minority Report” to a long list of retailers and restaurants that had their businesses depicted in “The Terminal,” including Burger King, Starbucks and Borders, the Hollywood Reporter notes.

But he’s taking it to the next level with his partnership with Mark Burnett, whom many consider the pioneer of brand integration with the huge success of “Survivor,” and Fox — the network that airs “American Idol,” one of the most successful TV platforms ever for advertisers — for their new filmmaking competition series “On the Lot.” Partners Verizon and Ford have a rare opportunity to be prominently featured not only in a TV show but in the films produced by the contestants aspiring to win a $1 million DreamWorks development deal. The show premiered last night and continues tomorrow night on Fox.

“This is a unique opportunity for both of our key sponsors because we have the reality portion of the show — the behind-the-scenes moments where the contestants can be seen using products — but we go one step beyond that because we have scripted films each week where the brands can be integrated in a more organic and creative way,” said Darryl Frank, co-president of DreamWorks Television and co-executive producer of the show.

“We’re trying to find the next great Hollywood director, and this is not dissimilar to what professional directors have to do on big-budget films,” Mr. Frank said.

Fox, DreamWorks Television and Mark Burnett Prods. jointly negotiated the integration and sponsorship deals with Verizon and Ford, which were the top bidders in the wireless and automotive categories. The deals cover commercial time as well as on-air integration, online content and off-air licensing rights. Fox, DreamWorks, Mark Burnett Prods., Verizon and Ford all declined comment on the amount the brands paid for their sponsorship/integration deals.

As part of its deal with “Lot,” Verizon will not only see its phones used by contestants in the show and by actors in the films they make, but will also be the text messaging partner enabling viewers to vote for their favorite filmmakers every week, much like AT&T; is the text messaging partner for “American Idol.” In addition, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from the “Lot” (including outtakes, contestant bios and more than 40 original short films to be featured on the show) will be available on Verizon’s V Cast video service both before and after the voting.

Verizon is also sponsoring an online moviemaking challenge tied to the show. Beginning Monday, consumers can submit their own short films via their cell phones or the Internet that are in the same genre as the films featured on “Lot.” That gives them the chance to win weekly prizes, including V Cast mobile TV phones (where “Lot” will be one of the TV shows available for viewing).

Consumers vote for the grand prize winner, whose short film will be featured on V Cast Video. The winner will also be announced on the show and win a trip to the “Lot” finale. Verizon’s on-air and online ads will promote the show, the V Cast video content and the Verizon moviemaking challenge at www.verizonwireless.com/onthelot. Verizon is hoping contestants will utilize the various features of its wireless phones on air such as V Cast video, Internet capability, navigation applications and mobile TV.

For its role, Ford will see a number of its vehicles used to shuttle contestants and guests around the studio lot and to film locations. In the short films themselves, which will range from one to four minutes, the producers will utilize Ford vehicles rather than other car brands in background shots whenever possible. And a certain number of films throughout the show will integrate Ford cars more prominently, giving them more of a starring role.

BBC numbers up

The BBC said on Monday that combined audience figures for its international news outlets rose to a record 233 million in 2006-2007, Agence France-Presse reports.

Between BBC World Service radio, the commercially funded BBC World television channel and the BBC’s international news Web site www.bbcnews.com, that represented a rise of 23 million from the previous year.

The broadcaster said its weekly radio audience rose 20 million to 183 million, while BBC World attracted 76 million viewers a week. Some 38.5 million unique online users globally, meanwhile, visited its international news Web site.

It noted that some people used more than one service.

The BBC, which is funded domestically with a taxpayer-subsidy, arrived at its figures for World Service radio through independent audience research over a four-year cycle.

It compiled its audience figures for BBC World through multiple surveys in 100 countries.

On tap tonight

The lowest-rated season of the once-hot “Lost” comes to an end tonight at 10 on ABC. Fans will have to wait nine months for the mystery to continue; 16 new and consecutive episodes will air in early 2008.

ABC at the top

It was a milestone week in the ratings for ABC, which won a tight three-way race for prime-time supremacy and saw its evening newscast win by its widest margin since 2001.

Season finales for “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” helped ABC to its first weekly ratings win of the season, except for when it broadcast the Academy Awards. ABC also hasn’t won during the May ratings “sweeps” since 2000.

It was enough to send Fox into third place last week, with “American Idol” not as dominant as it has been. Fox won among the 18-to-49-year-old audience it craves, however.

Second-place CBS scored with two prime-time specials featuring soon-to-retire game show host Bob Barker. Each brought in about 14 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Charles Gibson is starting to record some eye-opening numbers at “World News.” The ABC newscast, which started out the year a consistent second to NBC’s “Nightly News,” won last week by nearly 1 million viewers — a significant number in a usually close competition.

“World News” averaged 8.1 million viewers (5.6 rating, 12 share). “Nightly News” had 7.2 million viewers (5.1, 11), and the “CBS Evening News” had 6.2 million (4.3, 9).

In prime time, ABC averaged 10.8 million viewers (7.0 rating, 12 share), CBS had 10.4 million (6.8, 12), Fox had 10.1 million (6.1, 10), NBC had 7 million (4.7, 8), the CW had 3.1 million (2.0, 3), My Network TV had 1.2 million (0.8, 1) and ION Television had 600,000 (0.4, 1).

For the week of May 14-20, the top five shows, their networks and viewerships: “American Idol” (Wednesday), Fox, 28.1 million; “American Idol” (Tuesday), Fox, 24.2 million; “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC, 22.6 million; “House,” Fox, 21.2 million; “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 20.5 million.

Compiled by Kelly Jane Torrance from staff and wire reports

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