They mostly dabbled in webisodes and other Internet projects for a year before getting their big break: the 2006 launch of MyNetworkTV, a short-lived network showing nothing but English-language telenovelas. 2C Media was commissioned to put together a two-hour special featuring clips from the various novelas. MyNetworkTV executives were so impressed with the result that they commissioned the company to break the special up into little pieces to use as promos.
Chris was already a promo veteran. He had worked in a much-awarded unit at NBC that pioneered the creation of highly produced promotional spots rather than simply an announcer shouting Tonight on Cheers! over a quick, noisy clip from a show.
We called them promo-tainment, he says. We did one for [the sitcom] Mad About You that was a parody of I Dream Of Jeannie. We did one for Seinfeld that was just a montage of spectacular embraces of other people by the Kramer character. We did another one for the annual Christmas Eve showing of Its A Wonderful Life that had various NBC stars talking about their favorite scenes from the movie as they showed in the background. (The unit also invented the credit squeeze, the now common practice of shrinking the list of credits that crawls by at the end of every TV episode down to a third of the screen while showing a promo in the rest.)
Theres not a lot of glamour in it, Chris concedes. People make fun of it. Everybody wants promotion, but theres not a lot of respect for the people who do it.
But, it turns out, theres money. Though MyNetworkTV was a disaster that quickly folded all its original programming, 2C Medias promos caught the industrys eye. Soon, orders were cascading in from both broadcast and cable networks as well as the syndication companies that peddle reruns of hit broadcast shows to individual TV stations.
Promos for the syndicated shows pose some of the most interesting creative problems.
Some of the obstacles are common to all of the shows, Chris says. You need to rely on clips. But you cant use guest stars. You cant use extras. You cant use music unless its been cleared, which it usually hasnt.
But each show has its own particular challenges. We got the contract to do promos for the syndication of the original Law & Order. Except for what you see on nostalgia networks, thats one of the oldest shows on television. How do you make it feel modern and not dated? We used new music and new cutting to make it look new. We had an announcer saying, Episodes no one else has!
Then there was the promo package, when NBCs Friday Night Lights, a high-tone soap opera built around a high school football team, went into syndication.
We only did one promo that used a football clip, Chris says. They were trying to sell the show to female-skewing cable networks and they said football would be a big turnoff. So we couldnt use something thats the whole backbone of that show.
Among 2C Medias most difficult assignments was preparing a promo campaign for the syndication of NBCs subversive workplace comedy 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey as the hapless producer of a television comedy show, Tracy Morgan as her manic star, and Alec Baldwin as her fascist boss.