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CW Network Channels Social Media to Hook Viewers

ENTERTAINMENT – Mark Madler The CW network is diving into social media to keep viewer eyes on both its shows and the commercials. The network, a venture between Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS, is launching a smartphone app, called shopkick. The app recognizes when an advertiser’s commercial is playing on the network and downloads points or discounts to viewers’ phones that can be redeemed for the product in the commercial. Starting in October, The CW debuts its interactive game CWingo that can be played at the network’s Web site or on Facebook. CWingo has card squares, which represent scenes from a show or commercial that a viewer clicks on when they appear during the live broadcast. Viewers who get five squares in a row win social badges on Facebook. Top players are eligible to win DVDs and t-shirts of CW shows or a visit to a show set. “People these days are used to watching shows with the computer on and holding the phone,” said Rick Haskins, CW’s executive vice president of marketing and digital strategy. The acceleration of the use of electronic gadgets is one of the biggest changes taking place since The CW launched in 2006. Previously, there were no iPhones or iPads, and certainly no talk of apps. Still, the network used creative thinking to get advertisers’ messages out in an age when DVRs can scan right past commercials. The content wrap, for instance, was used during the first season. These longer-than-usual commercials featured actors from CW shows interacting with advertisers’ products. The network continues to do the content wraps but now makes them more sophisticated, Haskins said. Viewers will determine whether the shopkick app and CWingo game have staying power of the content wraps. What attracts viewers, though, is the programming, which is in the hands of the network executives. The CW airs four new shows in the fall and returns six existing ones. Reality stalwart “America’s Next Top Model” gets paired on Wednesday nights with “H8R,” in which celebrities meet their non-fans. Having succeeded with turning L.J. Smith’s “The Vampire Diaries” into a popular series, the network follows up with the author’s “The Secret Circle” about a teenaged girl joining a coven of witches. Call To Action Improving working conditions and benefits of visual effects artists were the leading topics addressed in an “open letter” to the entertainment industry by Eric Roth, the executive director of the Visual Effects Society. The letter went out via email and was posted on the society’s website on May 24. Attempts to reach Roth were not successful. The letter’s contents, though, were an expanded version of what Roth said to great applause in February at the VES Awards show in Beverly Hills. Then, Roth made mention of unionizing visual effects artists to have access to better health care benefits and working hours and to not “be below the caterer” in the credits crawl. The society was stepping up to take a leadership role in addressing all those issues through a series of meetings with entertainment industry professionals, the letter said. These are interesting times for those whose livelihoods depend on visual effects. The most popular and highest grossing films depend on those effects, yet at the same time effects houses here in the Los Angeles are closing as they lose work to firms in other parts of the world. It was no coincidence that on the same day of the VES Awards, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the dire circumstances facing the artists. With this letter, the VES now takes a step to turn those circumstances around and is doing so through the perceived power of its collective membership of 2,400 artists in 23 countries. Effects artists have done a “terrible job” of marketing themselves to the business side of the industry, but that was going to change, Roth stated in the letter. “We are the only viable organization that can speak to the needs and concerns of everyone involved in VFX to meet the challenges of a changing global industry and our place within it,” Roth wrote. Swinging Sixties The success of “Mad Men” has made Hollywood jump on the bandwagon on period television shows set in the early and mid-1960s. Along for the ride are prop houses History for Hire in North Hollywood and Lennie Marvin’s Prop Heaven in Burbank. The companies provided props for “Pan Am,” a new series airing this fall on ABC, and the NBC pilot “The Playboy Club.” Both also regularly supply props for “Mad Men,” the cable series that kicked off a national fascination with Kennedy-era fashion, furnishings and consumer products. Production companies rent from prop houses for television pilots and for those hard-to-find items. Otherwise, they prefer buying the items that remain on permanent sets. For “Pan Am,” History for Hire rented out airline tickets, baggage claim checks and other paper goods connected with traveling, said its founder Jim Elyea. Prop Heaven shipped out ashtrays, seating and coatroom items for when “The Playboy Club” pilot filmed in Chicago. Vice President Dan Schultz was unsure if the company would be called on for props once regular episodes begin filming. Coming up with the items these shows require to give an authentic look could be the subject of television show itself. The airline tickets and claim checks supplied for “Pan Am” were saved by Elyea from his past travels. The luggage tags were given to him by a prop master who worked on “The Love Boat,” though Elyea was not sure if the tags were actually used on the show. “We just copied them and made hundreds of them,” Elyea said. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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