- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ford still driving deals

Ford has signed on as a major sponsor of CNN’s “Black in America 2.”

The news special, which focuses on the black community, attracted a diverse and relatively large audience when the first installment premiered last summer, Broadcastingcable.com reports.

CNN has leveraged the program’s viewer base to bring Ford on board, as well as insurer State Farm, which has not advertised on the network for several years. McDonald’s is also a returning sponsor.

“Black in America 2” — a four-hour, two-night examination of black American innovators and leaders — is scheduled for July 22-23. Sponsor deals are integrated across television and the Web, with billboards and tagged tune-ins during all “Black in America 2”-related content as well as co-branded banners and display ads on CNN.com. Branded promos will begin airing in June, B&C said.

Ford has escaped the fate of rivals General Motors and Chrysler. Last week, Chrysler entered government-mandated bankruptcy, and many expect GM to follow suit. But Ford has maintained its marketing presence, with TV spots featuring its Advantage Plan (which covers the cost of car payments for up to 12 months if a customer loses his job) in heavy rotation and integrated deals on Fox’s “American Idol” for the fuel-efficient Ford Fusion.

‘Fringe’ benefits

Fox has given an early second-season order to frosh thriller “Fringe,” Variety reports.

The show, which wraps its first season on May 12, regularly wins its Tuesday night slot among top demos and rates as this season’s No. 1 new series among adults age 18 to 49.

The series was created by J.J. Abrams, who also created ABC’s “Lost” and directs the “Star Trek” prequel which opens in movie theaters on Friday.

“Fringe” stars Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble, Lance Reddick, Kirk Acevedo, Blair Brown and Jasika Nicole.

‘Cleveland’ returns

Fox is so high on “Cleveland,” the upcoming spinoff from hit “Family Guy,” that it has ordered a second season, notes the Hollywood Reporter.

The new 13-episode pickup brings the total order for the show to 35 episodes — and that’s months before the series has even premiered.

The animated comedy, centered on the Cleveland Brown character from “Family Guy,” was originally targeted for a debut this spring. But in November, the network decided to push the launch to fall 2009 to give the creative team more time for development and production. At the same time, Fox showed its confidence in the project by picking up another nine episodes, bringing the total order to a full season of 22 episodes.

The new 13-episode pickup is on top of that and is targeted for fall 2010, THR says. The move was made to keep the 20th TV-produced animated series in continuous production and avoid shutting down and losing talent and crew. Because of the long lead time in animation, the pickup also ensures that Fox will have fresh episodes for fall 2010.

“Cleveland” hails from co-creators/exec producers by Seth MacFarlane, Rich Appel and Mike Henry, who voices the title character. The show’s voice cast also includes MacFarlane, Sanaa Lathan and Nia Long, as well as Arianna Huffington in a recurring role.

‘Mad’ back for No. 3

Don Draper will return in August.

AMC has started production on the third season of its award-winning and critically acclaimed original drama series, “Mad Men, “Multichannel.com reports.

The retro advertising series, which became the first basic cable show to earn the Emmy for outstanding drama, is slated to return with 13 new installments, produced by Lionsgate, beginning in August.

Jon Hamm, who portrays the series protagonist, the creative ad genius and troubled family man Don Draper, will return in the lead role, as will other show’s top players: Elisabeth Moss (“The West Wing”) as junior copy writer Peggy Olson; Vincent Kartheiser (“Angel”) as ambitious account exec Pete Campbell; January Jones (“We Are Marshall”) as Draper’s wife, Betty; Christina Hendricks (“Kevin Hill”) as office manager Joan Holloway; and John Slattery (“Charlie Wilson’s War,” “K Street”) as agency partner Roger Sterling.

New network for kids

Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro have announced a joint venture to launch a cable network devoted to childrens entertainment and educational programming, MediaWeek.com reports.

According to the agreement, Hasbro will pony up $300 million for a stake in a re-imagined Discovery Kids Network, which will launch under a new name in late 2010. The channels programming slate will be spun from classic Hasbro properties such as Transformers, G.I. Joe, Monopoly, Candy Land and Tonka.

The two partners also will take advantage of Discoverys library of childrens educational programming, an archive that includes series like “Bindi The Jungle Girl,” “Tutenstein” and and “Peep & the Big Wide World.”

With its initial launch, the new kids outlet will reach some 60 million U.S. households, MediaWeek says.

While a management team and a creative roster have yet to be identified, David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery, said that a search is underway. A new name/brand is also in the works.

The new network will be the fourth Discovery property to get a makeover since Mr. Zaslav took the reins in January 2007. Investigation Discovery was launched on Jan. 27, 2008 (assuming the Discovery Times slot on the cable dial), while Planet Green arose from the Discovery Home network on June 4 of last year. Early 2010 will see the rise of OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, a mega-brand lifestyle net that is set to replace Discovery Health in 73 million households.

Hasbro first ventured into the TV space back in the mid-1980s, developing animated series based on best-selling toy brands My Little Pony, G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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