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Watch It Online

June 04, 2008|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

THIS time of year, they land with a thud on the doorsteps of thousands of homes.

They're the often-elaborate DVD mailers that TV networks angling for Emmy nominations send to the 14,000 members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. That not-so-hallowed marketing tradition may be changing, though. This year, Showtime has been leading a push to wean voters off the mailers, encouraging them to check out full episodes of such shows as "Californication" and "The Tudors" on a password-protected website designed especially for the Emmy campaign.

Richard Licata, Showtime's public relations chief, said the idea came to him last year as he saw the "for your consideration" DVDs piling up in his office; he not only wondered how he'd have time to watch them all, but also winced as he thought of all the garbage he and other voters would be contributing to landfills once the campaigns were over.

Moving the shows online was both cost-effective and more environmentally sound, he said. "It's not about pretty boxes anymore, it's about the product," he said.

Showtime isn't alone. Discovery Networks, likewise citing environmental concerns, also has an Emmy "for your consideration" site that offers voters episodes from Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC. "It was important to us to be as eco-friendly as possible with our campaign," said spokeswoman Katherine Nelson.

Nearly 6,000 visitors have logged on to the site since early March, Licata said, although Showtime still did a mailer earlier this year and dutifully sent additional DVDs to any voters who asked for them.

Many observers agree that the online approach for Emmy campaigns is the next wave. After all, networks are already streaming much of their content online.

A mailer campaign can be very costly, sometimes approaching $500,000 for a network with multiple Emmy candidates, according to several top PR officials. That doesn't include tens of thousands of additional dollars for "for your consideration" ads in print. And the TV academy also charges the networks and studios for the right to send the DVDs to members.

But DVD mailers may prove a tough habit to break any time soon.

TV executives seem to like having all the bells and whistles of a big mailer, at least partly because it helps quiet the gripes from series producers that the networks don't do enough to promote their shows.

HBO sent out its usual box of Emmy goodies, which this year was 3 inches thick and weighed 4.5 pounds. It included color booklets and DVDs of such shows as "Big Love" and "Entourage."

One of the more clever come-ons came from SciFi. The cable network mailed out handsome purple velvet binders designed to resemble those carried by presenters on Emmy night. Inside were DVDs for series such as "Tin Man" and "Battlestar Galactica."

How Showtime ends up doing in the nominations derby may offer some gauge of whether the online approach can work. But Licata said his network would definitely do a website again next year. And he sees some evidence that other networks are cutting back.

Referring to the corner of his office where he stashes the DVD mailers, he said, "I already have fewer boxes this year."


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