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Ads That Leave Scripted Shows Might Not Return

Dec 9, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Could the writers strike foreshadow life without advertiser support for scripted TV programs?
A media world without scripted programming—something more likely as the strike drags on—may start to look a lot like the coming world of heavy DVR penetration that renders ads on scripted TV shows largely powerless. If the strike forces advertisers to shift focus to live and reality programming, it effectively lifts the curtain on the future, a future in which live events command the biggest ad bucks and dramas and sitcoms lose much of their cachet. After all, if advertisers find effective ways to market without those scripted shows—today or tomorrow—it’s possible some might never come back.
Dramas and comedies—the programming most affected by the current strike—are the programs most vulnerable to time-shifting and ad-skipping by DVR users, according to research that’s been conducted by TiVo and Information Resources Inc., which have been jointly tracking the behavior of households using DVRs for the past three years.
Programming with strong timeliness, such as news and sports, tends to be watched live more often than scripted shows, even in households that have used DVRs for years, according to data presented by TiVo VP-Research Todd Juenger at an IRI event in March. Mr. Juenger, whose clients include networks involved in the strike, didn’t return e-mails for comment.
A consortium of mostly packaged-goods advertisers has been studying how to operate in a world of heavy DVR penetration (and relatively little advertising viewed on scripted TV shows) for nearly three years now.
While some of those advertisers have been testing how to market without relying on ads lost to time shifting, an IRI spokesman declined to comment on whether they’ve found a solution yet.
To be sure, it’s no cinch DVR doomsday will ever come. Estimates of DVR household penetration have remained in the 15% to 20% range, and Nielsen commercial ratings so far have shown unimpressive 2% to 3% audience losses due to time-shifting technology, noted media consultant Erwin Ephron.
He added that the TV market has proved remarkably resilient to economic shocks up to now, with advertisers responding to ever-higher TV rates over the years largely by ponying up bigger TV budgets. The same could occur should those dollars be funneled into more expensive sports and other timely programs.
The strike’s effect may even improve the TV experience, he said, if an inventory crunch forces advertisers to pay more money to run ads fewer times on higher-rated shows, so viewers don’t keep seeing the same spots over and over.
Even so, the networks and the striking writers may want to ponder the long-term impact of the Screen Actor’s Guild strike in 2000. MRA, a Cincinnati-based production consulting firm that works for 15 of the 100 leading national advertisers, notes that commercial production shifted largely outside the U.S. for years following that strike.
The work didn’t begin to return until the past year or so, said Fran Furtner, president of MRA, due to the devaluation of the dollar.

4 Comments

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  4. The thing is that – this wont work well in any way. Crazy idea, EOT!

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