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Pitching Local TV in Pay-for-Play World

Pitching Local TV in Pay-for-Play World

May 5, 2017 0 Comments

Many of us have been there. Following the national launch of a health campaign, we’re seeking extension opportunities in local markets, particularly with seemingly “low-hanging fruit” like local broadcast. But what do you do if local TV in your target markets is dominated by pay-for-play opportunities and your program/clients don’t support such opportunities?

We all know that pay-for-play is not a new phenomenon. Many mainstream media outlets have been leveraging this format for years. Today, pay-for-play is also becoming more and more common at the local level – a fact I had not fully appreciated until I started working on a local market tour for a celebrity spokesperson about two years ago.

Like most media specialists would probably do, I cringed when encountering these local TV pay-for-play shows. I thought – that’s it, the days of pitching local TV are over, especially for anything for any story with a pharma tie!

Then, I realized that offering a celebrity or notable spokesperson could be a win-win for the station, even if it’s for “free.” In addition to helping us publicize the program, it helps the TV station build or maintain audience, which they need to sell paid segments in the first place. So I started pitching pay-for-play type shows for non-paid in-studio appearances. Here’s what I learned:

  • Don’t get discouraged. Oftentimes, these shows offer a mix of paid and non-paid segments; even if they are all-paid, some shows have flexibility to accommodate a free segment.
  • Be transparent from the get-go. Make it clear to producers that you cannot support a paid appearance.
  • Secure buy-in from your clients to have some flexibility to negotiate. In some cases, a “free” segment on a pay-for-play show may restrict your talent to what extent they can acknowledge your client as a program sponsor or mention their product.

      For example, following negotiations a few producers agreed that instead of naming my clients on the air as the program sponsors, our spokesperson would simply say, “made possible by pharmaceutical support.”

  • Be flexible to play cat and mouse. If a producer tells you they really would love your talent but it would have to be a paid segment, keep reminding them politely you’d be happy to facilitate but can’t provide payment.

      In one case, a producer told me she first needed to try booking the entire show with paid segments. In the end, she took our talent for free anyway, since she had a cancellation and a spot to fill.

    While not all celebrity-driven local market programs are created equal, the bottom line is, don’t discount pay-for-play shows. You might be missing out on great opportunities!

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