TiVo has just made a case for TV networks to start programming commercials.
Last year TiVo said six of the 10 most-viewed commercials seen in DVR playback mode during 2008 were spots for theatrical film releases. The best of the bunch was Universal Pictures' "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," which grabbed a 12 household rating during the April 10 installment of NBC's "The Office."
"American Idol" was one show that naturally carried a lot of weight for its commercial sponsors. Four of the top 10 most-viewed spots came in that program, including an ad for Paramount's theatrical film "The Love Guru." There were also two entertainment-styled commercials for the video game "Guitar Hero" in "Idol."
Other highly rated shows, like ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," posted two top viewing numbers for film commercials -- 20th Century Fox's "Australia" and Paramount's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
Ever since commercial ratings were instituted in the national TV marketplace two years ago, executives have thought about the next step. What would it be like if network didn't give each and every advertiser fair rotation in the always more valuable "A" positions? What if the better-tested ads got more of the "A" position, so networks could sell more "commercial viewing value" in the lead-out "B" and "C" positions?
What would marketers get? Network executives might tell you marketers get more responsibility for their creative, which is, in part, what they got with the introduction of commercial ratings in the past two years. Perhaps that should now go a bit further.
Some media agencies such as Starcom MediaVest might agree. After all , they proposed looking at exact minute commercial ratings. And even then, Starcom and others are sifting further -- examining second-by-second viewing as well.
It wouldn't make sense to stick a movie or entertainment commercial in virtually every "A" position. But it would be smart to analyze which spots have been more entertaining/better viewed.
Cable networks are already kind of in this business. Many run their networks' program promos right after program segments and before actual commercials begin to run. These networks know how valuable that spot is. While they want to sell lots of advertising, their first need is for viewers to become aware of their programs. Without that awareness, there would be fewer viewers to begin with, and advertisers to sponsor those shows.
Should broadcasters take a hint?