The Benefits Of Commercial-Free Programs: Zero Ratings

TNT should be proud: its original series "The Closer" outdid itself, improving 11% in viewers for its premiere this season by some 8.8 million -- more than any other original series in the history of advertising-supported cable.

But wait. That episode was commercial-free, sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales for the Toyota Camry. So, it wasn't the highest in the history of advertising-supported cable, it was the highest in the history of ad-supported cable programs with no TV commercials.

Want more? Based on the prevailing theory that most -- if not all -- of the cable networks will now do advertising deals based on average commercial ratings, that means Monday's night big premiere scored a big fat zero from a commercial ratings perspective.

Nothing. According to advertisers, no one watched. TNT was playing HBO for a night.

Think of all those other premieres that cable loves to run commercial-free. How about all those FX series and season premieres? Those always get big ratings. What do they mean now for marketers and networks?



Probably nothing different from a year ago.

That's because we in the press know better. We know that people also watch programs, not just commercials. So, don't worry, big cable network executives, we'll still be writing about cable shows with no commercials. Didn't we just write about "The Sopranos" finale?

Toyota did get two on-screen "bug" mentions in the middle of the show, which means some viewers must have recognized that Toyota went to some expense -- perhaps spending a million dollars or so.

Toyota won't be able to judge itself via commercial ratings. It'll probably have to ask Nielsen to offer up on-screen "bug" ratings -- to figure out how that minimal creative worked.

Here's some final good news: Toyota didn't have to worry about the dreaded effects of DVR playback. There were no commercials to fast-forward through.

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