ABC Family Plan: Keep Them Tuned

Feb 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

ABC Family is ramping up its efforts to keep viewers tuned in during commercial breaks.
During the network’s original series “Kyle XY,” Garnier Fructis is sponsoring teases for coming attractions, joining the network in asking viewers to stay put for scenes from next week’s show. Not coincidentally, if viewers keep an eye out for those scenes, they’ll see an ad for Garnier, which also gets a mention when the coming attractions begin.
ABC Family has an advertiser signed up for a similar sponsorship when its series “Greek” returns next month and is in advanced talks with a sponsor for the upcoming “America’s Prom Queen.”
Concern that viewers are skipping commercials, especially when they watch shows using digital video recorders, helped push the industry toward using commercial, or C3, ratings when buying advertising. ABC Family and other networks began promising to take steps to keep viewers tuned in during breaks, both to address client worries and to keep their new ratings high.
During the fourth quarter, ABC Family put more advertising in the first, or A, position in commercial pods, replacing promos, said Laura Nathanson, executive VP for ad sales.
The network is just getting its first look at its C3 ratings for the quarter, and Ms. Nathanson said the move helped.
“Our index is like 95% to 96% retention from the program rating to the commercial rating, which put us pretty high,” Ms. Nathanson said.
The network planned to roll out its “tease and reveal” tactics for advertisers in the first quarter, as its original programming rolled out.
It’s too soon to tell exactly how well the tactics are working. ABC Family’s research department won’t get the minute-by-minute ratings including DVR playback for a few weeks. Even then, it would be best to see how the show tracks over the course of a few episodes.
“Clients want granular information, but it will take a month,” Ms. Nathanson said.
She said Garnier didn’t make a specific incremental payment for being involved in teasing the breaks during “Kyle XY.”
”Our original programs are sort of premium product,” she said. “It was a negotiation point.”
Starting March 7 with a marathon of the “Bring It On” films, ABC Family will begin breaks in many of its movies with trivia questions about movies that will be answered during breaks. Viewers with the correct answers can go to the network’s Web site for a chance to win prizes.
Ms. Nathanson said the quiz teases won’t be sold to individual advertisers.
“We want more advertisers to benefit. They’re all going to benefit in the break if the whole break retains more audience,” she said.
Clients appreciate the effort, she said.
“A lot of clients said, ‘We don’t need to sponsor it singly. We just need you to help us retain the audience.’ So it made sense to them,” she said.
Ms. Nathanson is convinced that ABC Family’s programming strategy of optimistic programming is partly responsible to keeping the 12- to 34-year-old millennial viewers tuned in, despite their reputation for short attention spans.
“We definitely have better retention than MTV,” she said. “They do a great job. They have a huge audience, but they’re having problems holding them during the commercial breaks.”
MTV Networks said it has been addressing its relatively low audience retention rates. It’s changing the formats of its shows to have more frequent but shorter breaks and is engaging in a number of pod-busting techniques that add content to the commercials, making them seem more like entertainment.

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