Monday, December 8, 2008

Flash marketing for TNT’s ‘Leverage’

Hoping to stir up interest in its new action series “Leverage,” cable television network TNT sent out 1-gigabyte flash memory drives containing the pilot episode of the show to an untold number of viewers.
TNT, a unit of Time Warner, probably used the subscriber list for Entertainment Weekly magazine, another Time Warner property, to put together a mailing list for the USB drives.
I received one on Friday and watched it on Sunday, the same day as the premiere aired on TNT. I’ve gotten advance screenings of TV shows before, but only on DVDs, not flash memory drives.
The stunt was part of a marketing blitz for the show, which included print ads in People, Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and marketing partnerships with Hyundai, DirecTV and Hewlett-Packard.
The blitz worked. Sunday’s premiere of “Leverage,” starring Timothy Hutton, drew 5 million viewers. It also delivered 2.1 million adults 18-49, ranking as TNT’s best original series telecast ever in delivery of that key demographic during a regular broadcast season.
It helps that the show, a cross between “The A-Team” and “Mission: Impossible,” got good reviews. Its current score on Metacritic is 69, which falls in the “generally favorable reviews” range.
I thought the pilot was far-fetched, but well executed. Diverting entertainment, but not appointment television. “Leverage” follows a team of thieves, hackers and grifters who seek revenge against those who use power and wealth to victimize people.
The premiere episode made great use of location shooting in Chicago, including scenes in Millennium Park and on the riverfront.
One personal gripe was the name of the evil company on the first show: Bering Aerospace. Come on, that’s too close to Boeing, the Chicago-based aerospace giant. Both companies make passenger jets and have headquarters along the Chicago River. Is this show written by Europeans?

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