New Focus For Programmers: Commercials?

LAS VEGAS --- With all emphasis on this season's changing TV network schedules due to the disruption of the writers' strike, networks forgot to program one new and obvious area on their airwaves -- commercial pods.

The changeover to commercial ratings this season makes this move all the more urgent -- especially in light of NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker's call at the NATPE conference here to examine all aspects of the TV industry.

In a NATPE panel, Laura Caraccioli-Davis, executive vice president and president/entertainment director of Starcom USA, said networks needs to address the programming of commercial pods -- just as they do any other part of their programming schedule.

For example, should networks just put an attention-grabbing movie trailer in the "A" position, another movie spot in the last position and a pharmaceutical in the middle, wondered Caraccioli-Davis.



Maybe an entire commercial pod should be structured around one specific topic, say health and beauty, she said. Perhaps an entire commercial pod should be devoted to cars, in a kind of on-air show room. Perhaps exclusivity for advertisers should be re-examined.

Right now, network chiefs have their hands full dealing with the writers' strike and the first season analysis of the C3 ratings (commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback).

But they also don't want to lose sight of their advertisers -- and the billions that they still spend in upfronts each year.

Networks are being pushed by advertisers to link traditional 30-second spots with content in new and more valuable ways. This season the CW network explored this area with its "content wraps."

Last year ABC said it was mulling the idea of launching a commercial in the content of a show - say, in a picture on a program's TV set -- to better link the commercial message with the content.

Programming commercial pods would require some heavy lifting on the networks' part. But it is all part of a new media world where traditional marketers are getting integrated media deals on other digital platforms.

What do you say to an American Express commercial leading into an American Airlines spot followed by an "American Idol" promo? And that's just the As.

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