Calling All Doctors!
For all of those channel-surfers afflicted with commercial attention deficit disorder, help is on the way.
On October 11, ABC will premier it's new medical drama, "Gideon's Crossing," free of commercial programming. The show, starring Andre Braugher as the chief of experimental medicine at a teaching hospital, will be underwritten by Johnson & Johnson as a sole sponsor and in return the Alphabet Network will give the health-care giant a 60-second spot before and after the show. ABC gave no indication of having plans to offer similar opportunities to other advertisers in the future, but did disclose that the lack of traditional commercial programming will cause the network to incur a financial loss of an estimated $2.4 million in ad revenue for the episode. But as Alex Wallau, ABC Television Network President, told Daily Variety, "we're taking a hit financially to allow a great show to find its audience." The idea for a sole sponsor came when executive producer Paul Attanasio and his team turned in a longer script than usual. Instead of cutting the script down by 10 minutes, the network presented Johnson & Johnson with the idea. The interruption-free format will allow for an additional 13 minutes of content. "What you're really going to gain is a fuller sense of the work - the chaos and dynamics of a teaching hospital," Attanasio told Variety. Andrea Alstrup, corporate CP of advertising at Johnson & Johnson, said the company isn't asking for product placement in the episode. Coincidentally, a look around the set found at least one occurrence of the company's products, but Alstrup noted that "any hospital show will have Johnson & Johnson products because we're all over hospitals," adding that it would be "nothing excessive." ABC is not the first to offer commercial free programming. NBC's Western series "Bonanza" was broadcast without commercial breaks one Sunday night a year for several years on NBC.
- MediaPost Staff Reporter Anya Khait may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org