The network, owned by General Electric Co., has commissioned 10 one-minute mini-movies with serial plots, which will run in place of multiple 30-second spots in an attempt to keep viewers glued to their sets during ad breaks.
From late night to prime time
The first one-minute mini-movies, or 1MMs, were expected to premiere during The Tonight Show, but the network changed its plans and will test the new format during Will & Grace, one of its most popular prime-time programs.
"This is the most important daypart," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research at Horizon Media. "It will keep people glued to NBC all night, looking for the mini-movie."
The Pussycat Dolls is a contemporary burlesque cabaret featuring scantily clad women that has lured celebrities such as Christina Applegate and Christina Aguilera onstage during the performance. The NBC mini-movie version stars Carmen Electra. The one-minute short will be embedded in a cluster of ads and will not take away from ad time, but will cut into the running time of the show.
Another planned 1MM is Henry Tammer -- Prodigy Bully, written and directed by Hank Perlman, a partner at the commercial production house Hungry Man, New York. Henry was shot as four separate one-minute episodes that will air in 30-second installments within ad pods. Each half-minute episode ends with the line "To be continued."
Mr. Adgate pointed out that The Simpsons started out as a three-minute short during breaks in The Tracey Ullman Show on Fox more than a decade ago.
"There are all sorts of possibilities in this," Mr. Adgate said. "Mini-movies will not only keep people from channel surfing or running to the bathroom during breaks, but they could lead to more program development for NBC. Three hundred episodes later The Simpsons turned out to the most successful evening animation show in the history of television.
All eyes on format
"You can bet all the networks will be doing all sorts of analysis to see how many people watched the first 30 seconds," Mr. Adgate continued. "And how many stayed for the last 30, and how does that compare to a night when they don't have these interstitials on. You'll be able to see how affective this is pretty quickly."