WB stirs flap over CPMs

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Are viewers who watch “Charmed” on The WB more valuable to advertisers than the viewers who will watch it this fall on TNT?
It is a watershed question to be addressed as The WB tries to strike deals with advertisers to run the same national commercials in “Charmed” on The WB as when it’s repurposed later in the week on TNT.
Not only is the WB asking advertisers to pay the same cost per thousand for the show on both The WB and TNT, it also wants to cume the ratings of both runs. That would allow The WB to meet the rating guarantees it has promised for “Charmed” by counting viewers who tune into the show on TNT later in the week as well.
This fall, each new episode of “Charmed” will air first at 9 p.m. on Thursdays on The WB. Five days later, the same episode will air at 10 p.m. on TNT. “As of now, that’s all it’s going to be,” said Jed Petrick, president and chief operating officer, The WB.
“I cannot believe a major agency will buy into
this,” said one senior negotiator at a major buying agency who has been approached about the plan. “CPMs on cable, on average, are about half that of broadcast network. Why in the world do they think that in one fell swoop we’d all of a sudden give cable parity? It just won’t happen.”
“Prime time is prime time,” Mr. Petrick said, summarizing the argument The WB is making. He also said the 18 to 34 demographic, to which “Charmed” appeals, is tough to reach. “There is demand against a short-supply demographic,” he said.
“Advertisers have specific flighting requirements,” Mr. Petrick said. “So we would take the Tuesday [TNT] airing, which is Episode 1, and the Thursday, [which] would be the first run on The WB, which is Episode 2, and the ratings for those two shows would be cumed. And one advertiser’s commercials would run both nights. If it’s in position 1-A on Tuesday night in Episode 1, which is the rebroadcast … it would also run in position 1-A the following Thursday night, which is Episode 2.”
Agency buyers say there is a difference in the nature of the cable and broadcast audiences, broadly speaking, and it is because of that difference that The WB proposal is a “nonstarter,” as one senior buyer put it. Like the other senior agency buyers contacted for this story, this buyer would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
“They have not given us a proposal on how they are going to adjust their pricing,” said a second senior buyer, who was approached with The WB’s general proposition. “But I will tell you that they are going to have a very difficult time getting buyers to pay for the TNT impressions at The WB CPMs.”
Said a third senior buyer, “One of the reasons network costs more than cable is because it’s giving you broad immediate reach, whereas cable builds its reach differently. Cable is more of a frequency medium than a reach medium.”
This buyer, who was familiar with the proposal but had not been approached about it, “wouldn’t accept it,” but speculated that The WB would “get somewhere” with other agencies, though not to CPM parity for the two runs. “Some people may say OK to it, but I’d be hard-pressed to say why they would.”
This buyer observed that sellers often “just want to look at the eyeballs,” but … there’s likely to be some duplication between the two audiences, and for some brands that’s OK, and for some that isn’t. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing.”
Informed of this contention, Mr. Petrick said the duplication between the two audiences is “almost nonexistent … about a 1 percent duplication,” according to his network’s research.
Mr. Petrick agreed that if the agencies accepted The WB’s “Charmed” proposal the business would change in a number of ways, and he pointed to the fact that the broadcast networks themselves are now delivered to the vast majority of their viewers by cable. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with `Charmed,”’ he said. “We’ll find out.”
“Charmed” is a young-demo-friendly series about three hip young witches in present-day San Francisco. This fall, actress Rose McGowan joins Alyssa Milano and Holly Marie Combs, replacing Shannen Doherty in the series, which is from executive producers Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent.