In Desperate Times, TV Networks Promote With Team Effort

In the midst of so much turmoil, television networks are looking to stay closer to home, huddling together for protection.

It makes sense then that ABC would try its luck in bringing back the big brand campaign under something called ABC House, where the likes of Susan from "Desperate Housewives"'  (Teri Hatcher) is cooking with "Lost"'s Jack (Matthew Fox), or Nora from "Brothers and Sisters" (Sally Field) reads a bedtime story to talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.

The premise: that all ABC's characters -- no matter how diverse -- seemingly live under one big roof in another part of their lives. It plays well in a world where crazy reality show contestants live under the same roof.

Think about ABC's promotional tactic, as well as what NBC is doing (though not exactly the same in merging all its shows in one five-year-anniversary, 30-second spot). It's about networks looking for strength in a team effort -- even if programs really don't make sense.



For years, networks have told us it's all about programming. And in recent years, we've been told it's not only individual programs that matter -- but any attempts at big-brand network campaigns don't work, since many marketers cherry-pick shows from one network to the next.

Give ABC credit for trying to use some of its leverage in pushing its characters to cross-pollinate. In better times, networks would do some of these things, almost as an act of hubris, to show they were the biggest and strongest -- and that TV marketers desperately needed them.

The danger in ABC's approach: losing some existing viewers. You may not like your Jimmy Kimmel among the soapy drama characters. Susan from "Desperate Housewives" may seem like your regular rough, tossed-hair, desperate, Island-girl with "Lost"'s Jack.

ABC and NBC are looking to find a way to make consumers and TV marketers feel good about buying all of their respective offerings. But we know how advertisers feel these days -- they don't want to buy everything, especially when price is a big consideration.

You know what will happen then: Someone will be voted out of the house.

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