Guest Commentary: Resistance to plan for `Charmed’ is ill-advised

Sep 3, 2001  •  Post A Comment

It’s always interesting to see how the buying community reacts to shifts in selling techniques. Almost invariably, the first inclination is to eye with suspicion anything that is out of the ordinary. This is followed by a rush to shoot it down or to make some extraordinary declarations designed to cheapen its value and lower the price.
Such appears to be the case with The WB’s new approach for “Charmed.” The proposal to link The WB airing with a second exposure five days later on TNT should be welcome news to a marketplace that is down on the incessant erosion of higher-reach opportunities that used to be associated with what we lovingly remember as network television. Here’s an approach that will undoubtedly add viewers with virtually no duplication-why, it’s like increasing a program’s share or spiking HUTS and PUTS. The only difference is that the exposure is swallowed in two gulps instead of one. And the advertiser gets to go along for the ride. Sort of like controlled time-shifting.
So what’s the big deal? The detractors say “It’s not really network TV.” No, but it’s TV, and it’s essentially “first-run” TV, just as though it were on “network” (whatever magic that word still holds). The only real difference is that it’s on two different venues at two different times. Does anyone really still have to argue over the inherent difference in value between a network and a cable venue anymore? To the viewer, television is television. For the advertiser, what should really distinguish the price/value of one form of television from any other is relevant programming content and the viewer interest it creates, its ability to draw a crowd and the desirability of the viewing segments.
In fact, The WB’s concept actually takes its cue from what used to be practiced by local independent television stations that were trying to compete with the big network guys.
Back in the days when “network” was king and “independent” meant you were a social outcast, some local stations would air a given movie title two or three times in a week, and the advertiser would buy the package for an airing in each showing-virtually no audience duplication, an opportunity to cume higher reach and, for the seller, a useful way to attract advertisers who might otherwise be concerned with smaller numbers.
What’s interesting about those who put down new techniques such as The WB’s proposal is that these very same people would be first in line to demand ADU’s for audience shortfalls and be willing to accept them in the same or even less desirable programming-and weeks or months after the conclusion of a flight. And not a word is said about audience duplication in these transactions. The name of their game is merely “make the impressions guarantee,” when the focus should really be on meeting the mettle of the media strategy.
So instead of deriding someone’s new concept because it means doing business differently, maybe we should encourage development of even more thoughtful ways of making this fragmented medium work better for all of us.
Joel Kushins is an independent media strategist. He is the former executive VP and general manager of media agency TN Media, New York.