ABC Says Web Viewers Will Tolerate Twice the Ads

How Long Before an Online TiVo?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The web is about to get a little more like TV -- minus the ad-skipping. ABC.com has started to peddle research that shows online viewers will tolerate shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" with ads from multiple sponsors, much like TV.

Twice the ads? Really?
Twice the ads? Really? Credit: ABC
Albert Cheng, exec VP of Disney-ABC TV digital media group, talked about ABC's research, conducted by Nielsen Media Research, on a panel at this year's National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas. ABC spokesperson Karen Hobson said the network is showing the data to agencies in hopes of getting them to buy into the concept.

Network programming on the web, whether on ABC.com, CBS.com, TV.com, Hulu or any other distributor, has typically had a single sponsor. Sometimes ABC has featured one national advertiser and one local advertiser. Online programs have also generally had one ad per break, in part to keep viewers from clicking away, and in part to lure marketers to try what was once a new concept.

As a bonus, the networks disable the fast-forward button, so ads can't be skipped, and since ad recall is higher, they've been able to charge higher cost-per-thousand rates than TV. But because there are many fewer ads, online revenue per viewer for the networks is still far below that on TV.

Boosting ad loads
ABC.com has been making noise for some time about boosting ad loads to bring the amount of revenue earned from viewers more in line with TV, and started conducting research early in 2008. "We can actually increase deliver, reach and frequency by looking at a model that will have more sponsors and more ads," Cheng said at NATPE, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The ABC/Nielsen research concluded that adding multiple sponsors per ad break had "a minimal effect" on recall and did not affect purchase consideration or ad attentiveness. ABC said the data show that doubling the number of ads within a show from four to eight "did not affect the viewers' overall experience with the ABC.com player."

If ABC.com is successful, expect other online players to follow, since demand for online spots in network shows generally outstrips supply. The danger, as MediaVest Worldwide's Donna Speciale so aptly put it, is finding "that very fine line and balance before we push them over the edge of being pissed."

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