Commentary

Will Networks Hang In With Branded Entertainment?

Branded entertainment is still big business, and perhaps about to get bigger for some new hopefuls in the business.

Sample plan for these business entrepreneurs: Get advertisers involved in a TV program early, give them lots of organic marketing, and hopefully customers will run to buy mobile phones, burgers, shampoo, maybe a fashion item or two -- all because of canny in-show product placement and other branded entertainment spin.

A new company, Three Lions Entertainment, will be using this process, with twist. “I really think there is a white space in the marketplace in terms of companies that create content and also monetize it in other channels to sponsors and advertisers, as well as the distributor,” company principal Richard Beckman tellsThe Hollywood Reporter. The company can charge smaller license fees. Sounds like a deal.

But there might be one small detail. For that reduced fee, Three Lions wants TV networks to give up some of their precious TV commercial time. This isn't a new concept; producers have tried this before. Some cable networks allow this from time to time. But broadcast networks? Generally that's a no-no.

Why? Conflicts can arise between two different sales groups looking to sell the same inventory. So, a TV producer might say, "Hey. No problem. We'll only sell to endemic advertisers."

One of the first productions will be a revival of the “Fashion Rocks” event, first engineered by Beckman when he was president of Conde Nast Media Group. The last one was televised on CBS in 2008.  Going forward, "Rocks" may have a different formula -- perhaps selling that commercial inventory to apparel makers.

But no one wants to give away inventory. If a show is successful, the advertising inventory can be a big potential upside for a network.

At the start of the millennium, when branded entertainment exploded, analysts predicted marketer issues around that content could get messy.  Nearly 15 years later, in an increasing tougher, more fractionalized TV world, with TV ratings continuing to slow down, maybe it's more of a reality for some. Maybe as a TV producer you just want to rent-a-network sometimes.

But you’d better have some truly powerful TV content in your pocket.

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