CBS Rewrites Product Script, Allows Placements In Scripted Series

Long a holdout in product placement on all but reality programming and daytime soap operas, CBS is considering opportunities in its scripted series.

CBS chief Leslie Moonves confirmed that the network would follow the success of product placement of shows such as "Survivor" into as-yet-unidentified programs beginning in the fall season.

"We're meeting with numerous advertisers right now about getting product placement within scripted programming," Moonves said during an interview at the Television Bureau of Advertising's annual meeting Thursday in New York City.

Plenty of details remain to be worked out, including many of the ground rules surrounding the product placements. No shows have yet been targeted for the opportunity.

"It's still early," Moonves said in an interview with MediaDailyNews. But he noted that broadcast networks like CBS have only one source of revenue--advertising--and that as TiVos and other digital video recorders help viewers skip commercials, CBS has to find ways to make sure the revenue stream continues.



"Right now, the big change that's happened in the last two or three years was--the creative team is open to it--where if you work it into the story line, they realize that it's part of the game," Moonves said. "I think you're going to see more and more of that. We're going to have to be more creative about it, more clever about it."

CBS hasn't been shy in offering placement with "Survivor," whose groundbreaking opportunities when it first started brought notoriety and buzz for the network and its advertisers. It continued the practice with short-run realityn series "Amazing Race" and "Big Brother," which will return to CBS in the summer after the 2003-0 season ends.

Soap operas have also been fertile ground for product placement. CBS signed a deal earlier this year with New Rochelle, N.Y.-based iTVX, which has developed an ROI-based system of measurement of product placement, to measure the growing field. But even then, CBS executives were careful to point out that it wasn't changing its policy on product placement.

Moonves said Thursday afternoon that product placement offers some real advantages.

"Some of the integrated spots that we used on 'Survivor' may be far more effective than a 30-second spot" when there's a real person saying a beverage was "fabulous in the middle of the desert," Moonves said.

"This is clearly something that we're exploring ... We're really making progress, and you'll see more and more of that as we enter into the new fall season," he said.

CBS isn't the only broadcast network to offer product placement in scripted series. It's been a feature of many if not all the others, including The WB in "Smallville," Fox's deal with "24," and ABC's partnership with Verizon Wireless in "8 Simple Rules."

At an executive roundtable sponsored by MEDIA Magazine in midtown Manhattan on Friday morning, WB ad sales chief Bill Morningstar said that product placement in scripted series offers just as many opportunities as it does in unscripted programming.

"When it makes sense, I think that you'll see it," Morningstar said.

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