Commentary

Weak TV Ad Market? What About Prime-time Infomercials?

Now that Fox has officially abandoned kids' programming after dropping its time-buy agreement with TV producer 4Kids Entertainment, its next step seems less about programming than about plugging a financial hole.

Fox is going with all advertising on Saturday mornings, becoming the first broadcast network to regularly schedule infomercials

Now, the question is whether Fox can sell $20 million per year of Perfect Push-up, real estate software, or ProActiv skin cleaner infomercials to make up the difference.  That's the number Fox will be looking at, because it's what 4Kids Entertainment paid annually to run kids' programming over the network.

Fox, which had been in a legal tussle with 4Kids over payment, has settled with the company, and Fox now regains ownership of the Saturday morning 8 a.m. to noon time block. It will give two of the four hours back to its affiliate stations to program.

There's also the issue of weak advertising sales for kids' programs. Executives at 4Kids have already told Wall Street investors the advertising marketplace will be a tough, tough business over the next several quarters. 4Kids blamed Fox for not keeping stations in line, delivering under 90% of the Fox network's TV households, thus selling lower-priced spots to advertisers.  

For years stations and cable networks have made infomercial deals. The fact that Fox is now running regularly scheduled infomercials says either that 1) Fox can't get another programmer to make a similar time buy, or 2) that it won't go back to producing shows because it's not viable financially.

Given CW's recently abandoned $15 million time buy deal with Media Rights Capital, who after only three months failed to garner any acceptable ratings on Sunday nights, perhaps we have entered new territory, one where networks look  not just for big marketers to save the day -- but medium-sized advertisers, those who do infomercials.

Given the facts that TV ratings are falling and the recession seems to be sinking its teeth into the U.S. economy, it doesn't seems much of a surprise that some networks may be looking to dramatically change their prime-time picture.

Will we see the day when regularly scheduled time buys -- or, gasp, infomercials -- come to network programming in prime time on a regular basis?

It might mean buying an Awesome Auger to save your favorite network.

1 comment about "Weak TV Ad Market? What About Prime-time Infomercials?".
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  1. Walter Graff from Bluesky Media, November 25, 2008 at 11:03 p.m.

    It wouldn't be hard to sell 20 million for a while. I have a laundry list of clients that would buy the time. It will work for a bit. Then like all these one-shot ideas, it will fade away and they will move on to the next idea.

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