Digital video recorders may not be as big a threat to the 30-second commercial as some fear, according to research conducted by ESPN that the network is scheduled to present at Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau’s local sales management conference this week.
“The impact on the 30-second spot isn’t nonexistent, but it’s pretty overstated compared with some of the early findings,” ESPN Senior VP of Research and Sales Development Artie Bulgrin said. ESPN is planning to do additional research into the different ways people will use DVRs, but for now Mr. Bulgrin said he’s sure the 30-second spot is “going to survive for the next several years.”
The CAB conference, using the theme “Closer to the customer, closer to the sale,” is set for May 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. Mr. Bulgrin was scheduled to speak at the conference May 22. Other speakers at the conference include the top ad sales executives from most of the largest multiple system operators; senior executives from large media buying agencies, including Starcom, MindShare and OMD; and George Ivie, the executive director of the Media Rating Council.
Some cable networks also will introduce new ad sales initiatives. E! Entertainment Television, for example, will tell local sales executives about an affiliate cross-channel incentive campaign tied to its “E! Emmy Extravaganza” red carpet telecast. The red carpet event is part of E!’s coverage of the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, which will be held Sept. 18.
As part of the ESPN study, which was conducted last year, ESPN offered DVRs to viewers in 160 households. Ninety households rejected the devices for various reasons.
“Those that stayed with the DVRs over the six months [of the study] learned to like it,” Mr. Bulgrin said.
While early sentiment among customers was that they’d like to use a DVR to skip commercials, “That attribute fell to the bottom of the list” as time went on, Mr. Bulgrin said.
The study found that 30 percent of the sample households didn’t skip commercials. And those that did said they didn’t do it all the time, partly because it created work and TV watching is “so fundamentally a passive entertainment medium,” he said.
Mr. Bulgrin found that there’s usually only one DVR in a home and there are usually additional TV sets in the house. “TV is still being watched in the bedroom, the kitchen and in the kid’s room. It has different impacts in different households,” he said.
As for the E! campaign, local operators will be able to include clients on taggable spots, and if affiliates run enough of the spots, they’ll get merchandise, including iPods, digital cameras, mountain bikes and trips to the Emmy Award ceremony in Los Angeles, that sponsors can use to mount sweepstakes campaigns.
E! Networks’ Style Network has a “Gotta-Get-It” affiliate campaign tied to a week the network will devote to shopping, leading up to the day after Thanksgiving, believed to be the busiest shopping day of the year. Affiliates can sell local tune-in spots to advertisers and receive points that can be redeemed for goodies, including PlayStation portables, satellite radios and iPod Shuffles.