Friday, February 13, 2009

Fox TV’s Gamble: Fewer Ads in a Break, but Costing More

How do you stop people from fast forwarding or leaving the TV during the break, fewer commercials. That is Fox TV's latest strategy and at the very least, their heart is in the right place. Sure the ads cost more, but if they are watched and not skipped over, it could be worth it. The concern to me is whether the consumer will return to their old ways and watch the show without using trick features. Is :60 short enough for the viewer to not rush to fast forward anyway. And because Fox is the exception, not the rule, will viewers fall into old habits. The good news is that Fox tells the consumer that it is only a :60 break.

But is it working? "Fox says the shorter commercial breaks keep viewers more engaged and improve brand recall for advertisers. Viewers are also less likely to change the channel or fast-forward past the ads — but not to the degree that Fox would have liked. Perhaps more important, the network does not appear to be recouping all the costs of the experiment. It is unclear whether Remote-Free TV will be back next season." Obviously there is a cost return benefit and the premium charged may be too expensive to justify the spending for advertisers. It's kinda like paying more for a larger box only to discover that the packaging hides the fact that what is inside is equivalent to what was in the original size package.

So far, the results are positive. "Last fall Nielsen IAG, an ad research company, analyzed the effect of fewer commercials and found that brand recall was 22 percent higher for 'Fringe' than for 'prime time’s most involving dramas.' Shorter breaks are also resulting in somewhat less skipping of commercials, according to Nielsen." Perhaps it can be possible to retrain the viewer that shorter breaks don't require skipping. Hopefully the test is expanded to all prime time shows.

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