Here’s How Broadcast Networks Are Promoting This Fall’s New TV Shows

The concept of a fall TV season might seem a bit dated in the streaming age. But broadcasters know this is their moment in the spotlight. And marketers from the major networks are hoping to use fall as one of the best times to break through the noise and debut their new and returning series.

“Some people might think that fall is irrelevant, that you launch shows year-round, and we understand that happens, but we have a different approach,” said Mike Benson, CBS chief marketing officer. “We actually made a statement that we love fall. Not only do we love the changing seasons and warm sweaters and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes, we love all the new shows coming back.”

Fox Entertainment Marketing President Darren Schillace observes, “Even the streamers are releasing some of their big products this time of year. People’s attention is drawn to TV out of habit in September, and it’s still working.”

NBC, CBS, and Fox all have NFL football to promote their fall merchandise, and they absolutely do. “For example, during Sunday Night Football, we aired a promo for Quantum Leap that showed the main character, Dr. Ben Song jumps back in time to 1984, where he transforms into NFL legend Joe Montana and heads out to a football game,” says Margaret Walker, SVP, NBC Brand Strategy and Audience Growth.

But they also hope to bring their returning franchises back into the limelight by continuing to market self-established shows. At CBS, the network runs its shows in waves, launching new seasons of its core franchises NCIS, FBI, comedy and reality before piggybacking those shows to introduce newcomers like East New York, Fire Country to start. “So Help Me Todd” and “The Real Love Boat”.

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Benson says he’s also focused on keeping breakout hit “Ghosts” going, which is entering its second year. “I didn’t stop marketing this show,” he says. “We went through the season into summer and now we’re going into season two like it’s a new show.”

Trailers have also become a big part of campaigns. Where television used to only rely on 30-second promos, today, especially in social media, cinema-style trailers are part of the campaigns. But Benson is even experimenting with airing longer shows on CBS: “We want bigger, deeper sales for what we’re bringing to audiences,” he says. “Not only do we release them digitally, we find time to get them on air. We recently ran a 90-second spot for 60 Minutes. And I asked the team, ‘When was the last time we did something like this? And the team said, ‘We’ve never done anything like this!’”

NBC breaks the news that its shows will be available exclusively on Peacock for the first time next day. The network is also heavily promoting recurring brands Law & Order (and its three-hour crossover premiere event), One Chicago, and The Voice — particularly with new coach Camila Cabello. And on September 15, consumers were able to fill up their tanks for 91 cents a gallon as part of a stunt promoting new drama “Quantum Leap,” which travels to 1985 for its pilot.

At Fox, one of the network’s priorities has been new country music drama “Monarch,” which premiered Sept. 11 out of an NFL doublehead. “The unfortunate delay with COVID has actually been a marketing benefit. We had all the episodes, we got to see all the storytelling, and we had all that content to build a campaign,” says Schillace.

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Fox aired the “ACM Honors” as a showcase to promote “Monarch” and also looked offshore to promote the show (and its entire lineup). “We’re looking at markets like Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, places where Fox has some strength,” he says.

Fox also partnered with People magazine to promote Monarch via custom content, and even opened a pop-up shop in New York where viewers could visit and sample Monarch merchandise — including of the show’s branded jewelry and bourbons. Other priorities for Fox are Season 2 of The Cleaning Lady and a newly remastered format of The Masked Singer.

ABC’s priorities include the return of Emmy-winning comedy hit “Abbott Elementary,” which included a presence at San Diego Comic-Con and a partnership with Scholastic, which includes sponsorship of local book fairs, gifting teachers’ shopping sprees via Lakeshow Learning, partnering with S’ gut on a school hydration program, donating school uniforms, and collaborating with NY & Co. to give away teachers’ uniforms. A version of the Comic-Con activation also recently appeared in the Century City mall.

“It’s infinitely quotable and shareable,” says Erin Weir, executive vice president of marketing at ABC and Disney General Entertainment, of the show’s social presence. “We’re introducing custom finishes including a TikTok branding effect, a snap selfie view lens, a meta soundboard, and Twitter audio countdowns.

Also gaining traction is new ABC drama Alaska Daily, which the network said has attracted 27 million views for its trailer in less than a week. ABC promotes the show through cable and streaming, as well as true crime and news podcasts. As for newcomer The Rookie: Feds starring Niecy Nash-Betts, “Our creative is leading the way with Niecy and we’re also incorporating learnings from the release of The Rookie into the themes we’re driving – the concept of the second act an important, relatable element,” says Weir.

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The CW is focusing its efforts on the fact that its two new fall shows come with built-in consciousness: Walker Independence, a spin-off of Walker: Texas Ranger, and The Winchesters, a prequel to Supernatural. ”

“We will leverage social media heavily and make this passionate ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Walker’ fanbase our workhorse. Marketing from The Winchesters is a big Valentine for Supernatural, so they’re going to have fun inviting these fans over to reminisce about this world and step back into this world they love,” says Rick Haskins, President, Streaming & Chief Branding Officer, The CW. “Jensen Ackles, our executive producer and narrator on the show, will also be part of the marketing.”

As for Walker Independence, the network has partnered with the Autry Museum to sponsor a film series and has also created a presence at Knott’s Berry Farm. “And later this month at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, we’re sponsoring a cooling station at their Day Village that will be branded ‘All American: Homecoming,'” added Haskins. “We have a big ballpark, but instead of fans in the stands, we’re going to have real fans to keep people cool in the Las Vegas heat.”

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