General Motors Corp., trying to get out word of its new extended warranty, extended the Aug. 7 and 8 editions with a half-hour of commercial-free chat. Instead of running from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., the program ran until 9:30 a.m. In fact, the Aug. 8 show ran even a few minutes past 9:30.
While having sponsors underwrite commercial-free programming isn't new in radio, rejiggering a schedule and extending the time high-priced talent remain on air is. Plus, the circumstances with CBS Radio's morning show were a little different. The morning team of Opie Hughes and Anthony Cumia is under contract with XM Satellite Radio, but XM and CBS struck a deal in April in which the show would air simultaneously on CBS Radio for three hours and then for an additional two hours solely on XM Radio.
The arrangement illustrates a trend in which advertisers try to appear not as an interruption but as a service that underwrites content. In the first three hours of the show, GM aired a variety of spots ranging from five seconds to 60 seconds. Revenue was split among XM, CBS and the stations airing the extra half hour. (CBS Radio syndicates the morning show on a few Citadel stations as well.)
GM tied in media partners early on, which helped CBS come up with such an integrated idea, said Michael Weiss, president , CBS Radio Sales, the national rep firm for CBS Radio. He said that in this case, the industry's consolidation helped move the deal along quickly. The media buy was orchestrated by GM Planworks and cost in the mid-six-figure range.
"We only had to get approval from three people," he said. "We went to [CBS Radio CEO] Joel Hollander to get him to pull the trigger, [Citadel CEO] Farid Suhlman and [XM Radio President of Programming] Eric Logan to make sure he was comfortable."
Cue from Hyundai
GM, taking a cue from Hyundai, whose generous warranty helped spur a dramatic turnaround, has extended its powertrain warranty from 36,000 miles or three years to 100,000 miles or five years on all its 2007 models.
"We look at every opportunity and try to find a way to make it work for the radio stations and the client," Mr. Weiss said. "Radio has gotten a lot better at that."