"Our concern is that the networks have gone too far and will kill the golden goose," said Jon Mandel, co-managing director of MediaCom, New York, a unit of Grey Advertising. Mr. Mandel is chairman of the Four A's national TV and radio committee.
His comments followed a report in The New York Observer that ABC has asked some producers to reduce program time in their prime-time shows this fall so the network can add commercial time.
Mr. Mandel said he hopes to invite network representatives to a meeting next month of his committee.
"It's gotten to the point that a number of us on the advertiser and agency side feel the networks are threatening the very existence of ad-supported, mass-reach broadcast television by adding too many commercial minutes," he said.
RADIO PROVES POINT
Mr. Mandel said no one wants the meeting to become adversarial.
"We're not going to be threatening them. It's not that kind of thing. And it's not about cost, the costs per thousand we pay. It's beyond that. We want to point out that we now have data -- from another medium, radio -- that show overcommercialization has driven listeners away. We can now prove that."
Mr. Mandel said he understands networks have but a single revenue stream -- advertising. But, he said, "they have to look past the financial picture for this quarter or next quarter and look at their very survival."
Allen Banks, exec VP-North American media director, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and chairman of the Four A's media policy committee, agreed overcommercialization of the nets is a big problem.
"It's outrageous. It's suicidal," Mr. Banks said of the ABC move.
ABC's response to the report: "In the increasingly competitive landscape, it is incumbent upon each of us to remain relevant while still providing free over-the-air quality television to the nation."
"I think if the networks are going to [add commercial time], they need to notify the advertisers," said Andrea Alstrup, VP-corporate advertising, Johnson & Johnson. "If it's true, I certainly wouldn't embrace it."
Said Robert Wehling, global marketing officer for Procter & Gamble Co., the second-largest U.S. advertiser: "They [ABC] have to monitor that very carefully or they'll lose audience. I'm worried about it because I want them to survive and grow."
Mr. Mandel noted that it's not just ABC adding commercial slots. "All the networks are doing it."
According to a study by J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, in the first six months of the year in prime time, ABC averaged 10 minutes and 12 seconds of national commercials an hour, the first time the 10-minute barrier