Last summer, ABC Family quietly became the only cable network equipped with a robust, ad-supported broadband player for full-length streaming episodes of its shows online, beginning with "Kyle XY" and eventually including "Wildfire," "Grounded For Life" and "Falcon Beach." Now sales chief Laura Nathanson has her eyes set on selling another key element in this year's commercial-ratings-based upfront.
Traditionally for cable, the "A" position is where a network airs promo spots for its shows as a way of keeping viewers engaged throughout the breaks. Ms. Nathanson's plan is to combine the promos with an ad-supported model through a tactic called "tease 'n' reveal." It will consist of a "sponsored by" tease for a promo in the "A" position of original programming, followed by full-length a preview of the following week's episode later in the same commercial break. Some of the ad-based promos will begin in the fourth quarter, while the "tease 'n' reveal" strategy will kick off officially in January 2008.
"We need to do what works for both advertisers and the channel," Ms. Nathanson said. "We've spoken pretty loudly over the last few years and would like to have some of those first-rate positions to go back to the advertisers. They're paying us a lot of money for them, and they're the premium space."
A recent IAG study examining commercial engagement across broadcast and cable found that the last spot in commercial breaks was the most viewed on DVR playback, but Ms. Nathanson said that's not always the case with her network and client roster. "Depending on who you talk to, that last position has a different value. Some networks believe that last position works best for promos. What we're going to be doing with clients and promos is seeing what works -- give us back some of the 'A' positions, and we'll get there."
With the Disney family of networks actively looking to lead the pack in ad models for all properties -- video on demand being the latest, with a Cox deal designed to disable ad skipping on ABC and ESPN content -- Ms. Nathanson said her findings from the past year have provided valuable insight to her clients. "What we've learned is you can't do too much advertising. [Viewers] will stay through and watch 15 seconds of commercials [online] if they know they can't fast-forward through them."