NBC says it has a deal with Philips Electronics to be the single sponsor of "The Nightly News with Brian Williams" for an entire week, next week.
While that may be new for NBC, it isn't new for the challenging network new business.
Philips also did a similar single sponsorship deal with "60 Minutes" in October 2005. CNN has done single-sponsored news specials as well.
Perhaps less noticeable was the new "Dan Rather Reports" on HDNet--yes, that Dan Rather. For its debut, it had a single sponsor--by default--Patron Tequila brand. Why? It's the same problem HDNet has had with advertisers for some time, especially this past summer--not enough of them want to make high-def commercials.
So what can we learn from these events? They stem from the decade-old (or more) issue concerning complaints over TV advertising clutter. Through the '90s--and through the last several years--TV programmers have tried to squeeze more commercial time into TV shows.
Now with the explosion of new ways to get video, these messages are being more diluted. It's comforting to note that networks like NBC, CBS and others that air news --as well as HDNet, in sticking to its only-HD-ads plan--are hoping to make advertisers' messages more special.
Clutter is an issue that has only been compounded by digital platform demands. But those digital efforts have had a ricochet effect. Look at the ways networks are looking to standardize the selling of advertising on digital versions of their TV shows on their own Web sites. During a broadband airing of a traditional half-hour or hour-long show, networks offer up to a 10-second or 15-second pre-roll spot, followed by either three or four 30-second commercials--or spots of shorter length.
That's pretty close to what Philips is doing on NBC--running three spots, totaling one minute and 15 seconds, in the half-hour "Nightly News" shows.
NBC says there are other advertisers waiting in the wings for the chance to do similar stuff with its news programming. Some time back, Les Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp., hinted that CBS was considering a deal having one advertiser sponsor an entire evening on CBS' prime-time schedule.
All of which would seem there'll be less advertising coming--but no doubt priced at a new premium for the advertiser. That's how networks hope to make money in the digital age: less advertiser singing; more advertiser ka-chinging.