Downloads, PVRs allow for skipping commercials
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BACK TO THE FUTURE: It’s hard to believe that it’s taken them this long, but at least one of the major networks are trying to come up with a new way of presenting commercial breaks in their hit shows, according to a story in yesterday’s business section of the New York Times.
Yesterday was the day scheduled for a meeting between executives at ABC and executives from various media agencies that act as brokers between the companies that want to buy ad time on a network and networks like ABC, who are seeing the perfect storm of downloading and PVRs loom on the horizon, making it more possible than ever for viewers to fast forward or skip commercials. The substance of the meeting at ABC’s Burbank headquarters won’t likely be known for weeks, and the results probably won’t be visible for months, but it could be the first major change to prime time since Ed Sullivan was on the air.
“We want to bring the audiences right to the commercial so they don’t feel they’ve gone into the commercial,” Michael Shaw, president for sales and marketing at the ABC Television Network unit of ABC, told press after a panel discussion at an industry conference Tuesday.
Under discussion are the commercial “pods” – the groups of ads that we outsiders to the industry’s wonderful ways are used to calling commercial breaks. ABC wants to find a way to integrate the commercials into a hit show such as Desperate Housewives so that viewers won’t tune them out – a habit that most of us have developed over a lifetime of commercial viewing. The network had produced several video clips meant to dissolve the barrier between content and pitch, at least a few of which will be based on the “content wraps” developed by the CW network, and VH1’s “Showstoppers,” which mixed ads with scripted content.
Besides the inevitable sight of smaller broadcasters dealing with change more nimbly than the big networks, the Times speculated that what we might see is onscreen talent being enlisted to take an active role in pitching products, much as Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore once pitched Kent cigarettes during commercial breaks during the Dick Van Dyke Show. They’ll have to be a lot more nimble and clever than simply having Jack Benny or Johnny Carson turn to the camera to extol the virtues of Jell-o or AC Delco spark plugs, especially with stars who’ve had more than a generation to think of themselves as artists instead of paid employees of companies in the business of selling sliced bread, tampons or cars.