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TV Guide Now Selling Ads

May 2, 2005  •  Post A Comment

TV Guide Channel is planning to release research showing that viewers recall commercials shown in a split-screen format.

The channel has also begun to sell advertising within its scrolling program listings and is gearing up to sell ads that can be localized down to the ZIP code level.

The data, due in the next few weeks, according to Richy Glassberg, senior VP and director of sales for the TV Guide Television Group, should help the program guide service overcome one of advertisers’ biggest objections to buying spots there: the perception that split screens distract viewers from the message.

In addition to the split-screen problem, the other big objections have been the lack of “must-see” programming and distribution.

Last year the network relaunched with new long-form programming and signed Joan and Melissa Rivers for red carpet events. It also signed new distribution deals, including a major agreement with DirecTV, bringing it to 77 million homes and solving the distribution problem.

In its earning announcement next month, Gemstar, which owns the TV Guide channel, is set to announce a big jump in cable advertising revenue, which is mostly attributable to TV Guide Channel.

But Mr. Glassberg said many advertisers still balk at having their creative share a screen with TV Guide Channel’s scrolling listings.

Mr. Glassberg, who joined TV Guide from Speed Channel last September, commissioned an ad-effectiveness study, which cost an estimated $200,000. TV Guide is putting on a presentation based on the study, but the overall result is that ad recall and effectiveness are essentially the same.

“It’s an ADD world out there. We’re all looking at multiple screens,” Mr. Glassberg said. He noted that ESPN recently used a split screen during a race, with commercial breaks occupying about 60 percent of the screen. A big player such as ESPN can further validate TV Guide’s pitch that viewers are used to getting multiple messages simultaneously. “People bought it and nobody died. No media plans fall apart,” he said.

Mr. Glassberg said TV Guide began selling some ads in its scroll. The ads must be bought in conjunction with regular advertising and are most valuable to programmers and to sponsors of televised events.

He said the scroll ads proved their worth by delivering additional homes to NBC during the Olympics. TV Guide Channel and NBC worked together to inform viewers about which NBC broadcast and cable channels carried which events. In all, he said, TV Guide delivered 35 million homes to NBC during the Olympics, raising its ratings by about 1 point.

Mr. Glassberg envisions the sponsor of a major golf tournament buying ads on TV Guide Channel to help viewers find which cable channel is carrying the early rounds of the tournament and which broadcast channel has the final rounds.

Because it needs to deliver different program listings in different places, TV Guide Channel has a digital infrastructure that is addressable at the cable headend. That facility should also be valuable to advertisers ranging from programmers to retailers and franchises that would like to tailor their ads down to the ZIP code level.

“A Pizza Hut ad could include the local restaurant’s phone number, Mr. Glassberg said. Only the Weather Channel has a similar capability, he added.

The Weather Channel began selling its hyper-local advertising last year. TV Guide Channel plans to roll out its National Addressability product in the third quarter, Mr. Glassberg said.

TV Guide Channel has been making its pitches from agency to agency with what it calls its “upfront in a bag.” In the 27-minute presentation, the TV Guide Channel staff points out the channel’s growth in delivery and its 37-year-old media age. The channel doesn’t lose viewers during commercial breaks because the scrolling listings are still running, Mr. Glassberg pointed out, and it’s virtually TiVo-proof because it’s designed to be watched as it’s broadcast.

And with viewers coming and going fairly frequently, advertisers can generate reach and a high cumulative viewership very quickly.

“We are strong in areas people buy television for,” he said.