Another way to get 6 extra commercials

Nov 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

CBS had three extra minutes of prime time to sell to advertisers on its popular Thursday night lineup last week-and it had nothing to do with squeezing programs with a Time Machine. Instead, CBS ad sales can thank the producers of “The Agency,” the rookie CIA-centric drama from CBS Productions, Studios USA and Radiant Television.
The show fell three minutes short of the running time for a network hour show. (The show routinely comes in short, said a network insider, who noted that “Survivor,” which starts CBS’s prime-time network lineup on Thursdays, often runs long.) In such instances, Electronic Media was told, the unused time might go to commercials or promotions.
Last Thursday, CBS took the unused time and split it three ways, putting one minute into “Survivor,” one minute into “CSI” and one minute into “The Agency.” A network log for Thursday shows that “CSI” started at 9:01 p.m. (ET), “The Agency” started at 10:02 p.m., and prime time ended on time.
That means late local newscasts that are so important to affiliates could start on time.
However, some affiliates were still displeased. If someone watching, say, “The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” on ABC from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. last Thursday chose to watch “The Agency” instead of watching ABC’s “PrimeTime Thursday,” he might have been put off by switching to CBS and finding the ending of “CSI” instead of the beginning of “The Agency.”
“That’s the potential negative effect,” said one station-group executive in the South.
CBS would argue that dumping a large number of viewers-“CSI” averaged 25.1 million viewers last Thursday and hit its best-ever performance in adults 18 to 49-into “The Agency” helped that rookie show score its best viewership (11.43 million persons) since the series debuted, giving local stations a lead-in that was second only to NBC’s “ER” in the key demo.