From Detroit Free Press
The North American International Auto Show never lacks media coverage. But next year it will be a full-fledged network star.
NBC Sports plans to air a live two-hour special on the glitzy Detroit auto event from Cobo Center on Jan. 23, the last day the show is to be open to the public.
“It’s the first time this has been done,” NBC Sports spokesman Tom Caraccioli said, referring to the length and national nature of the broadcast.
A statement from NBC Senior Vice President Jon Miller describes the special as “a unique opportunity to provide unprecedented exposure to this great event.”
More details are expected to be announced Thursday.
In recent years, the auto show has been covered in splashy, entertainment-oriented ways by television shows like the syndicated “Entertainment Tonight,” ABC’s “Good Morning, America” and NBC’s “Today” and by cable networks like ESPN.
This year, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” sent a cardboard cutout of DeGeneres to the auto show floor and gave attendees a chance to appear in taped segments.
Auto show representatives met with NBC executives around April, according to Bill Cook, senior cochairman of the 2005 NAIAS. He says a deal was eventually put together that includes a five-year commitment to do the specials.
Cook says he’s long thought the auto show deserved its own network slot.
“We were getting great feedback from the spots run during the preview days on ‘Good Morning, America,’ ‘Today’ and other places,” Cook said. “It seemed a natural if we could come up with some sort of affiliation. Frankly, we didn’t know if it would be NBC or ESPN.”
Charles Fortinberry, chairman emeritus of the auto show, said the NBC special would help local dealers by promoting auto manufacturers. “The big point is, it continues to reach out for our manufacturers and exhibitors. The more we can do to bring them exposure, the more it’s a good thing for all of us.”
The 2005 auto show’s official local broadcast partner will be WDIV-TV (Channel 4), Detroit’s NBC affiliate. Cook says the negotiations to team up with NBC were separate from those conducted to switch the auto show local partnership from WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) to WDIV.
Joe Berwanger, vice president and general manager of WDIV, says the station is exploring ways to work with NBC on auto show coverage. “It’s great exposure for Detroit,” Berwanger said. “The icing on the cake is, it’s all positive. You can’t get any better than this.”
More details are emerging on who will be appearing on the special. You can count on appearances by NBC’s NASCAR broadcast team: Allen Bestwick, Wally Dallenbach and Bennie Parson. And you can count on a big presence for the ever-sexy concept cars.
Although television is now a 100-plus-channel creature, University of Detroit-Mercy marketing professor Michael Bernacchi says there’s still a certain cachet for Detroit in nabbing a broadcast-network special. “I think it’s recognition that this market is a very important one, and there’s no bigger preview than ours,” he says. “Besides, NBC is the network of the Olympics.”
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