The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

USA's viral marketing of 'Psych' includes ending for 100th episode that's chosen by viewers

  • Print

NEW YORK, N.Y. - From a bank of chairs in an NBC Universal control room, technician Antonella Caruso counted down as if she were anticipating a rocket booster's liftoff: "Nine, eight, seven, six ..."

It was a dress rehearsal for USA's plan to let viewers of "Psych" choose the ending of Wednesday's episode, celebrating the drama's 100th episode and culminating the network's two-year experiment at an exclusively fan-centred approach at marketing.

In the episode, Shawn (actor James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) try to solve a murder at a party hosted by an old rock star in a California mansion. There are five suspects: the groupie, the manager, the author, the host and, of course, the butler. During the show, the suspects are narrowed down to three and viewers are asked to vote on social media who they thought committed the crime. Three endings were filmed, each lasting three minutes, and the top vote-getter will be used.

The episode salutes the 1985 film "Clue" and features that film's actors Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren and Martin Mull, along with guest shots from Garrett Morris and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears.

Depending on where you live, you could see a different ending. USA is conducting separate votes for the East and West coast airings of the show. (Viewers in other time zones will see the Eastern version at 10 p.m. Eastern.) They estimate tabulating 190,000 to 250,000 votes.

Viewer-selected endings aren't necessarily unique (CBS' "Hawaii Five-0" did one this year), but here fans will be updated a handful of times during the show on how the vote is going. That's where Caruso's practice came in; she was counting down to an insert of a vote tally.

"Psych" is in its seventh season, a point at which most shows are considered "mature" and are losing viewers, but it does have a relatively young, devoted audience and is USA's third most-popular original show behind "Burn Notice" and "Suits." Instead of running general advertisements encouraging viewership when its sixth season started last year, USA sought to engage fans through social media and activities, said Alexandra Shapiro, USA's executive vice-president of marketing and digital.

"It's great to be loved," Shapiro said. "But you have to love back."

USA set up online games for "Psych" fans to play, with real and virtual prizes. Particularly high-scoring fans even become part of the game. There was a fan appreciation day, with some invited to meet the cast. USA encouraged social media interaction with stars and others involved with the show. A "slumber party" of viewer-chosen shows that aired from midnight to 6 a.m. on a Saturday in February resulted in some 157,000 mentions on Twitter.

One goal is to make live viewing of new episodes an event, Shapiro said. DVR viewing is fine, but networks still reliably make more money when there is a strong audience for original airings.

So far, so good. The February debut of the seventh season saw stronger ratings than the sixth season opener in 2012, with a 22 per cent increase in the desirable young audience of viewers aged 18-to-34, the Nielsen company said.

"Our job is so much harder than it was 10 years ago or even five years ago," Shapiro said. "We used to be content messengers. Now you have to be content creators. You as a marketer have to create compelling content that a fan is going to engage with."

It's not necessarily an approach that works with every show, she said. But it could be a template for some with similar audiences.

For this week, the chief concern is compiling the fans' votes, and making sure technicians in New Jersey charged with making sure the correct ending of Wednesday's episode is inserted.

___

EDITOR'S NOTE — David Bauder can be reached at dbauder(at)ap.org or on Twitter (at)dbauder.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jaws of life used to free two people after two-car collision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • June 25, 2013 - 130625  -  A storm lit up Winnipeg Tuesday, June 25, 2013. John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press - lightning
  • A  young goose stuffed with bread from  St Vital park passers-by takes a nap in the shade Thursday near lunch  –see Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge Day 29-June 28, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What should the city do with the 102-year-old Arlington Street bridge?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google