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HRTS Member Profile: Joe Earley

Joe EarleyJoe Earley is President of Marketing and Communications at Fox. I recently had a chance to interview Joe to discuss Glee, tweet-peats and video production in Korea.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment? How did you first get involved with HRTS?
-even though I grew up in the Midwest, I somehow always knew I would work in entertainment. I was involved with school plays since kindergarten. I had no connections, and there was no reason to believe I ever would, but I just knew I would figure out a way. 

During high school, we moved to Santa Monica which put the industry within reach. I still had no connections, but I attended UCLA (where I switched my major from Mathematics to Communications) and started temping for entertainment companies. Through a friend of a friend of a friend (finally, a "connection") I landed a production job on a video ride for a theme park in Korea. From there, I took other freelance production jobs and then got my big break when I was hired by Gale Anne Hurd's development/ production company, which allowed me to witness the entire process from beginning to end. I then segued into Publicity at HBO and then FOX, about 16 years ago. 

It was during my Publicity/Corp. Comm. days at FOX that I learned about HRTS as we covered our executives who participated on panels. Those were the days when the network Presidents all sparred with each other on stage and the ballroom was filled with spectators eagerly anticipating the barbs. It's much more civilized now.

Q: What are your thoughts on product integration and branded entertainment in general?
-it's the wave of the future, so we are focused on how it can be done organically, and how we can be the best marketing partners off-air, as well.

Q: How do you build the brand of established shows like IDOL versus newer shows like GLEE?
-with IDOL, the challenge is to retain the core elements that viewers like while highlighting what's new, fresh or different. For a few years, the marketing for IDOL was getting slicker and more detached. Last year, we tried to reconnect with the emotion of the show and highlight the amazing journey these contestants take. 

GLEE is a very unique series. I've said many times, not only is the show brilliant, but it is so multi-faceted that any attempt at reducing it to a singular marketing message would leave out so many aspects that different groups of viewers would enjoy. That's why we premiered it the way we did - behind IDOL - and then spent the summer trying to engage the initial fans and turning them into full-fledged GLEEKS who became Ambassadors for the show. We created more content on GLEE than we have in the history of the network because we needed to empower the Gleeks and give them reason to keep talking about the show. Ryan Murphy is also a genius when it comes to marketing and we were inspired by his goal of making GLEE the most-interactive series ever. Add to that an amazing cast who were already tapped into social networks and we had the perfect formula to market the show to a broad audience and to various niches at the same time. It was a challenge, but was exhilarating and everyone here is still motivated out of passion for the show. 

Q: What are “tweet-peats”?
-we were looking to give fans a reason to watch a re-run, and we knew that GLEE had a huge online/social network following, so we decided to have the cast tweet live along with the show (in ET and PT time-zones). It was a big hit with both the fans and the cast. For FRINGE, however, there were a lot of fans who were upset because it was the first time the episode was repeating and they felt the tweet graphics were distracting as they were trying to decipher every clue. So, lesson learned there.

Q: What’s the marketing value of an event like the Super Bowl?
-there clearly is no better platform for broad marketing. The whole family comes together, groups of people come together, they're in a positive, engaged state of mind, and -- incredibly - a huge percentage of them are eagerly awaiting the commercials and they want to share their feelings about the commercials with their social networks. For the network, we know that our promos are competing with multi-million dollar spots, so we try to be creative, entertaining, and to sell the shows as broadly as possible.

Q: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years?
-we're still adjusting to DVRs and soon, I think, we'll see more activity on VOD. As the next generation becomes a larger percentage of the viewing audience, they're redefining the way our content is consumed. That will impact us as content creators, distributors and marketers. That's not a bad thing, it just requires change and creative thinking. There is great opportunity ahead.

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