Skift Take

Carnival Corporation is putting a lot of effort into getting its cruise ships, destinations, and shore activities in front of a massive audience. Smart travelers will realize they're seeing a highly produced, promotional version of a cruise experience.

Carnival Corp., the cruise industry giant that knows something about making ships, is creating something new: TV programs.

The company planned to announce Monday morning that it has produced three original shows — which will star travel personalities and lots of cruise ships — to air during family-friendly Saturday mornings on ABC, NBC, and The CW starting Oct. 1.

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“Many of us have fond memories of the Saturday morning TV programming that we enjoyed as kids,” Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald wrote in a note to employees. “This fall, Saturday morning TV will take on an even more special meaning for Carnival Corporation.”

While not paid programming, the shows will have an unabashedly pro-cruise point of view.  About 80 episodes will be broadcast; they are set to air weekly until September of next year.

“Never before have we seen original programming that truly showcases the vast range of experiences available to all cruise guests and discreetly dispels the myths that plague the industry by highlighting the best aspects of cruising,” John Padgett, Carnival Corp.’s chief experience and innovation officer, said in an email.

Two of the shows, “Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin” on ABC and “The Voyager with Josh Garcia” on NBC, feature each host taking part in activities that would be available to cruise passengers. Corwin, best known as a conservationist who has hosted shows on Animal Planet, will focus on adventure, while Garcia, a video journalist who recently appeared on the Weather Channel show Brainstorm, will explore culture, food, and personalities in ports.

“Vacation Creation,” which will air on The CW, awards cruises to travelers who have been chosen based on their stories and need and follows their trips. Tommy Davidson, a veteran of comedy sketch show “In Living Color,” and Andrea Feczko, a YouTube personality, host the show.

“These programs are all part of our continued focus on expanding the cruise market and further stimulating consumer cruise demand,” Donald wrote. “By showcasing the exciting adventures, exotic cultures and popular global destinations that are part of our itineraries, the experiential content will engage millions of viewers on an emotional level.”

Planning for the programs began last year, and production started earlier this year; Donald mentioned that many employees had already hosted filming on their ships and may appear in the episodes.

All of the parent company’s 10 brands, which include Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, Fathom, Costa Cruises, and AIDA Cruises, will be represented in at least one episode. Since Donald took over as CEO 2013, he has pushed company-wide initiatives rather than exclusively brand-by-brand efforts. The company ran a commercial during the 2015 Super Bowl that featured all of its brands.

An OCEAN of Content

Individual brands have also been featured in TV cooking competitions, reality programs, game shows, and feature films. But in this case, Carnival Corp. partnered with an independent company, Litton Entertainment, to develop and produce the content and to syndicate it to the networks.

The episodes will carry the label OCEAN by Carnival Corporation, described as a “platform that connects people, places and cultures using original content programming.” OCEAN stands for One Cruise Experience Access Network.

Padgett said the goal of the shows is to “authentically represent” what passengers can do during a cruise.

“The reality of TV production is it’s not always one for one, but the spirit of everything we do is experiences that are available to all our guests so we can truly show the world what they can experience,” he said.

As might be expected, the programs are expected to be relentlessly upbeat about cruising. Donald frequently talks about the need to dispel myths about cruising, but it’s not clear how that will be accomplished in the various programs. High-profile issues that have made headlines in recent years such as the fatal Costa Concordia shipwreck, the Carnival Triumph fire, and norovirus outbreaks are unlikely to be addressed.

“By no means do we intend to dissect ourselves or anyone else,” Padgett said. “But again the intent is, in a macro level and in the broadest intent, to be real and positive, because that’s what cruising is all about, and to show the greatness of people and cultures and crew interacting with guests.”

Carnival representatives would not say how much the company is investing in the programs’  production. The shows will not replace traditional advertising, Padgett said, but  are meant to build on existing marketing efforts. Donald told employees that the shows will include “favorite commercial spots from our brands to encourage vacation booking.”

In addition to running on Saturday mornings, the shows will be available through over-the-top platforms and will run in Carnival ship staterooms. A fourth series is also coming from the cruise company, slated to run on cable on a weeknight starting early next year.

Padgett said he expects the entire industry to get a boost from the new shows. While Carnival Corp. is the world’s largest cruise company, the traveling public likely doesn’t realize which brands belong to Carnival as opposed to its competitors.

“Increasing the market for cruising is great for everyone and great for Carnival Corporation,” Padgett said. “We’re definitely going to get more than our fair share.”


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Tags: carnival, content marketing, cruising, tv

Photo credit: Carnival Corporation is producing three original programs for Saturday mornings on network TV, including "Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin." Pictured is Corwin in Acadia National Park. Carnival Corp.

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