MEDIA ROUNDUP: More outlets now watching new TVs

Far from just a guy thing anymore, TVs have taken on new cachet with fashion and design publications due to innovations that now give them luxury status.

Far from just a guy thing anymore, TVs have taken on new cachet with fashion and design publications due to innovations that now give them luxury status.

Most adults spend more than five hours each day glued to their TV sets, according to a study this year by the Ball State University Center for Media Design. And with that much time devoted to TV viewing, it's no wonder that a big-screen TV with a complete home-theater system now rivals a luxury car as a high-end status symbol. As survey after survey will attest, flat-screen televisions top most holiday wish lists this year - dramatically increasing the opportunities for pitching TV hardware stories to the media. "The market has just boomed in terms of potential coverage," says Debbie Curley, VP at Weber Shandwick San Francisco, which represents Hitachi Home Electronics. "And it's a fairly educated consumer and media that we deal with these days. They may not know all the nuances of technology, but they definitely come to the table with information and often with a preference for one technology or another." New emphasis on style The newest generation of TVs, with their sleek, wall-mounted designs, appeals beyond personal technology beats and now has cachet in the fashion and design worlds, says Dorothy Crenshaw, president of Stanton Crenshaw Communications, which represents Sharp Electronics and its Aquos line of televisions. "We lend them to fashion and women's magazines because they want them for background shots," she says. "We just had a six-page layout in Cosmopolitan with the model using an Aquos TV as an accessory." This increased emphasis on style has helped end the perception that TVs are strictly a guy thing. "We just got a piece in Family Circle," says Russell Rowland, EVP with HWH Public Relations, which represents Samsung USA. "You're now dealing with such a sleek picture tube, it changes the whole landscape of how an art director can shoot this in a room setting." It also means that TV sets are no longer reviewed exclusively in the technology pages. "We always like talking to a reporter who specializes in consumer technology because we have a compelling story to tell," explains Curley. "But we've expanded our reach in recent years to include home sections, design sections, and living sections." Another factor helping to drive media attention is that after years of being aspirational products, many of the new TV technologies, such as plasma and LCD, have dropped into the affordable price range. "Everything has become more mass market," says Pam Golden Loder, president of Golden Loder Associates, which represents Thomson and its RCA brand. "And that feeds into the fact that the media have become much more savvy about technology in general." But with dozens of brands to choose from, you need a lot more than a well-written press release and some good photos to get a reporter's attention. "There's a lot of TV technologies out there, so sending out product samples helps with the education process," Rowland says. "In order to get the coverage, you have to provide some samples because journalists are going to have to see it to really impart to consumers what all the excitement is about." Even with increased appeal, most hardware coverage is still largely limited to roundups or reviews, with much of it found in either print or online outlets. But Crenshaw notes, "Television news in general loves TV-themed stories. And we'll also do radio news releases that are informative how-to segments, especially around the holidays." Increasing HDTV coverage In addition to the focus on the latest styles and screen sizes, there's also an industrywide effort under way to educate the general public on the ins and outs of high-definition TV (HDTV), which offers better picture quality than the analog sets most Americans grew up with. Jose Cordona, senior associate for brand marketing at Burson-Marsteller, says that a federally authorized changeover of most sets and programming to HDTV by 2007 or 2008 should ensure that the TV technology story stays on the front burner in the coming years. "I think the coverage will continue to grow," he says, adding that with up to 3 million HDTVs being sold in the US annually, it's a story that most media outlets can't ignore. "Most of these stories don't get into the nitty-gritty of what HDTV is, but they do mention that these are the latest technologies and remind people that eventually every home will have an HDTV." ------- Pitching... TV hardware
  • Most reporters at general-interest publications tend to focus on the style and price points of televisions. Coverage of technical specifications is still largely limited to enthusiast publications, such as Home Theater and Sound & Vision.
  • Although coverage of TV hardware tends to peak during the holiday season, there are many opportunities to pitch stories during other times of the year, especially around the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or other major broadcast events.
  • Flat-screen TVs are as much about design as function, so look well beyond the technology reporters and pitch the latest models to home and lifestyle editors, as well.

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