IN another sign of how hard television executives are working to attract advertising in tough times, two cable channels plan to significantly expand an initiative that pairs commercials with relevant scenes in the shows they interrupt.
At a presentation on Wednesday, Turner Entertainment Networks — part of the Turner Broadcasting System unit of Time Warner — intends to announce the expansion of the initiative, called TV in Context. It is to be available in 100 movies and scripted series during the 2009-10 season on TBS and TNT; it has been available in 50 movies on those channels during 2008-9.
The wooing of advertisers by the Turner channels will begin on Day 3 of what is known as upfront week, so called because TV executives are trying to sell commercial time before the start of the coming season. TBS and TNT are among several cable channels making presentations during a week that has traditionally been the province of the broadcast networks.
The broadcasters, eager not to be usurped, are busy with their own efforts to entice marketers that include new schedules for CBS and ABC, as well as an innovative deal between NBC and a big advertiser, the Subway chain of sandwich shops, to renew the series “Chuck” for 2009-10.
TV in Context seeks to offer advertisers something like the contextual targeting they can achieve online by serving ads to computer users whose behavior is tracked from Web site to Web site.
For instance, when the OnStar service sold by General Motors bought a commercial on TNT during a break in the film “The Bourne Supremacy,” the spot was tied to the content of the preceding scene. After viewers watched Jason Bourne in a crash-filled car chase, the OnStar spot asked, “Are you counting on your cellphone to be your lifeline in a crash?”
Turner executives “know how challenged advertisers’ budgets are,” said Linda Yaccarino, executive vice president and chief operating officer for entertainment sales, marketing and acquisitions at Turner Entertainment Networks. “We want to challenge all the traditions of how we format our networks.”
Research showed improved scores among viewers for brands that used TV in Context this season, Ms. Yaccarino said, on attributes like engagement, recall and purchase intent. Advertisers in addition to G.M. that made TV in Context deals during 2008-9 included Applebee’s, Best Buy, Chili’s, DirecTV, Hallmark and Kellogg.
“One thing we’re always looking for is how can we partner with networks to do something innovative to get people to stay tuned to commercials,” said Steve Sternberg, executive vice president for audience analysis at Magna in New York, which helped bring together Turner and advertisers like Chili’s and DirecTV.
TV in Context “seems like such a simple idea,” he added, but “the initial results were very compelling.” Magna is part of the Mediabrands unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
The scripted series in which Turner plans to offer TV in Context are reruns of “My Name Is Earl” on TBS and the original series “Leverage” on TNT.
The renewal of “Chuck” for a third season by NBC, part of the NBC Universal division of General Electric, offers another example of how marketers and networks are collaborating in nontraditional fashion.
The special sponsorship with Subway is enabling NBC to bring back the series, executives said, in a deal they described as made possible by a decision to go to advertisers earlier than usual in what NBC called the “infront,” to ask for ideas about interweaving brands into shows.
The partnership was suggested to Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, by Subway executives, who were enthused about the special marketing opportunities the series afforded the chain. Subway sandwiches played a role in an episode of “Chuck” last month, with the “$5 foot-long” Subway slogan as part of the dialogue.
“Chuck” appealed to Subway for reasons that included its audience, which is mostly the type of younger consumer that buys a lot of subs at malls. The show takes place in a mall, and Chuck’s girlfriend, Sarah, is a C.I.A. agent who works under cover at various stands in the food court.
It is no great leap to believe she could be selling Subway sandwiches next season. An NBC executive said discussions have been under way about the specifics of the tie-in. “Chuck” will return at 8 p.m. Mondays, after the network finishes covering the Winter Olympics.
With the fate of “Chuck” in the balance, the show’s fans had waged an aggressive campaign online and through Twitter to save it. Many suggested buying foot-long Subway sandwiches to signal their ardor for the series.
Turning to ABC, part of the Walt Disney Company, the network is hoping to take advantage of the decision by NBC to schedule a comedy talk show with Jay Leno at 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, said Stephen McPherson, president of the ABC Entertainment Group.
ABC is adding two dramas at 10 p.m. “The Forgotten,” on Tuesday, is a crime series from the prolific and successful executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer. “Eastwick,” on Wednesday, is based on the John Updike novel “The Witches of Eastwick,” as well as the movie by that name.
“Eastwick” is one of five new series that will compose an all-new Wednesday for ABC. The other four newcomers are star-filled sitcoms: “Hank,” with Kelsey Grammer; “The Middle,” with Patricia Heaton; “Modern Family,” with Ed O’Neill; and “Cougar Town,” with Courteney Cox Arquette.
The other dramas for ABC at 10 p.m. are returnees: “Castle,” on Monday, and “Private Practice,” on Thursday. The news magazine “20/20” comes back at 10 p.m. Friday.
ABC is unsure where “Lost” will be on the schedule, Mr. McPherson said, when it returns in January for its final season. The series has occupied various time slots in its five-year run.
CBS, part of the CBS Corporation, is to discuss its schedule on Wednesday. Three dramatic series were not renewed for 2009-10, according to an executive who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the network’s plans. They are “Eleventh Hour,” “The Unit” and “Without a Trace.”
Five series on the proverbial bubble for renewal are getting picked up, the executive said. Two, “Cold Case” and “Numb3rs,” are dramas. The rest, “Gary Unmarried,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine” and “Rules of Engagement,” are sitcoms.
CBS is likely to add a drama, “Medium,” to the schedule after its cancellation by NBC. “Medium” is produced by the CBS Television Studios unit of CBS.
Bill Carter and Edward Wyatt contributed to this article.