Welcome to "Hollywired," my new MediaPost column.
On Pico Blvd in Los Angeles, a billboard for Roku, the streaming video box, declares: “Christmas, Hanukkuh, Kwanza. We all Worship Television.”
True, but few of us worship television commercials. Personally, I hate them -- not in themselves. Some are very good. It's what they do. They interrupt programming on every channel except one, hands down the best network on television. Turner Classic Movies or TCM is a total anomaly, thank god, and a refuge and haven for many of us who despise interruption. Yes, Roku and other devices allow viewers to avoid advertising -- but they are a pain in the ass to set up, especially for late adopters like myself. TCM is a godsend and the lone antidote, as far as I know, for the necessity of devices like Roku.
TCM somehow survives without selling out and corrupting its featured content. How? Reportedly, the network has 85 million basic subscribers and receives 30 cents per subscriber per month, and generates almost $300 million a year in license fees. The network also runs off-network sideshows that bring in more revenue, and build a tight-knit community of fans. There is an annual Hollywood film festival and a yearly TCM Classic Cruise, an auction of movie memorabilia and sightseeing tours of famous film locations in New York. They sell their own branded merchandise including DVDS, a magazine, books, calendars, even a “classic cocktail gift set.” TCM has evolved into one of the most successful lifestyle brands in any market -- all without one second of commercial interference. It may look old-school and classic, but TCM is actually more forward-thinking than the majority of entertainment brands, which saturate their channels with commercial breaks and their programming and features with brand integrations.
This year TCM has been celebrating its 20th anniversary and their popular big red tour buses that ply Manhattan streets from Grand Central Station (a location in Hitchcock's North By Northwest) to Harlem are offering free rides this month until the end of the year.
It might prove instructive for some of us to jump on the bus. I plan to.
Branded entertainment as a marketing discipline, as we've all now come to know, is an elusive puppy. It has been hard to monetize and justify. Clients want it but don't understand it. It is unmeasurable, although iTVX would disagree. It is a gypsy practice that knows no master, the domain of creative agencies, media agencies, production companies, public relations agencies, talent agencies, advertising conference pontificators and sketchy independent brokers who carpetbag the big brands, promising to broker marriages with hot properties. Many of them don't know the back end from the front end of an entertainment contract agreement.
The bottom line is that this stuff works -- but no one really understands it and how to harness it effectively. Cannes Lions and The One Show now recognize it and hand out awards, but can they tell us what it really is and how it works?
There is a definition of "Hollywired" floating around the Web, this from netlingo.com: "A play on the name 'Hollywood,' this refers to a group of entertainment companies using Internet technology to create media products."
I’m increasing the bandwidth in this column; my "Hollywired" is all about being
wired into Hollywood and vice versa, covering the Hollywood influence on the "wired" or tech and ad tech businesses that are blooming all around, from Silicon Beach to the Digital Downtown
of Los Angeles, as well as up the coast to Mountain View and San Francisco. And since this is MediaPost, after all, "Hollywired"also is all about observing the advertising, marketing and media
practices associated with entertainment and branded entertainment. Finally, it's about my favorite subject, the flip side of the entertainment coin -- earned media -- which, according to the
Forrester definition, is “an old PR term that essentially meant getting your brand into free media rather than having to pay for it through advertising.”
In other words, offering consumers something they want -- which TCM, for one, does so well.