Future Scheduling Of TV Ads: Where The Consumers Are

TV networks continue to send some strange messages to viewers about  commercial messaging.  

Unknown to most viewers, TV programmers can put commercials wherever they like. The benefit here? If, for example, there is no advertising in a given half-hour period of time, it doesn't officially count in TV ratings and viewership.

NBC did just that on Wednesday night -- shifting all its advertising out of the first prime-time half-hour of its Olympic coverage. Why? Because it was going up against the all-powerful "American Idol" - and who wants to lose to that big TV franchise?

Turns out NBC still lost to "Idol" - but the contest was a bit closer than it might have been. This came a week after the Olympics beat the big Fox show last Wednesday -- the first time "Idol" has lost to any TV show in six years.

Typically NBC's viewership for any Olympics climbs throughout the evening. NBC's didn't disclose its reasoning for the move. However, we can surmise its logic -- that giving national advertisers a later position garners better ratings.



Looking at the Super Bowl comparison, this would be like moving all those advertisers from the first and second quarters of the game to the third and fourth quarter -- when things typically start to get interesting.

The two-hour-long "American Idol" on Wednesday averaged 22.8 million viewers and an 8.6 rating/23 share for the 18-49 viewers. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on NBC, the Olympics averaged 19.5 million viewers and a 5.2 rating/14 share among 18-49ers.

But looking at only 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., NBC pulled in a 5.5 rating among 18-49 and 20.1 million viewers. The network pulled a lowly 3.7 rating and 15.6 million viewers in the 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. half hour.

All this might seems silly to the average consumer - like NBC was trying to hide something.  But it's just business. NBC has also done this before with other Olympics.

A couple of years ago CBS messed around with putting extra advertising messages in the first-half of "Late Show with David Letterman" and "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" just to get the better, early program ratings.

NBC also did the same with "The Today Show" in the past -- moving advertising messages out of the low-rated first half-hour of that two-hour daily program.

If the industry moves to more granular exact minute, or second-by-second ratings, expect different messaging to be offered, as well as different ad scheduling.

But it's probably not what viewers want; definitely not a commercial-free ninth inning of a tied seventh World Series game.

2 comments about "Future Scheduling Of TV Ads: Where The Consumers Are ".
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  1. Steve Sternberg from The Sternberg Report, February 26, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

    I've been pointing this out during each of the past four Olympics (summer and winter), including in my blog at the start of the current games. Nielsen tries not to publicize it. They also only provide ratings up to the last national commercial pod. So the entire figure skating gold, silver, and bronze medal performances last night were not measured by Nielsen.

  2. Janis Mccabe from jmod35, February 26, 2010 at 6:19 p.m.

    Not an expert here, but I've always wondered why a network pushing a new drama show for ratings will schedule commercial breaks at nearly the exact same time as the commercials on an already strong show on another network. I do understand that production has something to do with the timing of commercial breaks; but if a network hoped to have a winning show, wouldn't you think that in it's first season they might make it so that I'm glued there, that they don't provide an opportune time for me to almost automatically start clicking through the other channels to see if there's something I'd rather watch? If they scheduled their commercial breaks differently, even if I did start channel surfing during their own commercials, I'd likely be going into the middle of a conversation or some action for which I have little or no feeling of its situational background (despite the fact that I may be familiar with the characters).

    I've never understood this. It seems like a no-brainer.

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