The results, as determined by data the CW is using from ComScore
and DoubleClick, "dispels the myth that the online consumer will
not watch commercials," said Rob Tuck, exec VP-network sales at
"I do think this will generate a change in the business model,"
said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at WPP's Group M. "Up
until this point in time, there was this pushback issue about
acceptance of commercial messages" online, he said. "Clearly people
are willing to accept advertising as they do on television in
exchange for content."
The CW's effort comes as some forces in the industry are working
to ensure online viewers have more ads to watch. Nielsen has for
the last few months been working on data that would take into
account viewing of commercials that run in a particular show no
matter whether they are seen online or on TV. For Nielsen to be
able to provide the commercial rating, however, shows seen online
will have to have the same group of commercials that run on TV. If
this system were adopted en masse -- and it's not clear that it
would be -- online viewing might be crammed just as full of
commercials as the more traditional TV-watching experience. The
company expects to start making such data available in April, a
Nielsen spokesman said.
With more viewers getting their boob-tube fix by streaming
favorite shows on the computer screen, TV networks and advertisers
may have little recourse. Besieged by ratings drop-offs for their
traditional TV programs, they may have to force new ad intrusions
on consumers who had grown accustomed to seeing less commercial
Fewer viewers tuning in to "One Tree Hill" or "Grey's Anatomy"
on TV, after all, means the networks can't charge as much for
commercials, and marketers can't get the reach they once knew the
venue regularly delivered. By devising a system that measures
viewers in as many different venues as possible, TV networks might
be able to keep the ad cash coming in while stabilizing the ratings
erosion that has troubled them for at least the past decade.
If CW viewers are spending more time online, said Mr. Tuck, the
network wants advertisers to compensate them for it. "Our
demographic is certainly going to go online," he said. "We do feel
this is a big part of the CW and has to be taken into
The CW raised eyebrows earlier this year when it announced it
intended to sell combination packages of TV and online ad
inventory. The network started pondering the idea when executives
noticed positive growth online for programs such as "Vampire
CW uses online-impressions data from DoubleClick as well as
Nielsen VideoCensus video-streaming data to give advertisers a
sense of how its shows are watched online. Mr. Tuck said September
data shows the CW delivered 99 million ad impressions to its total
viewers -- an increase of 330% over last September -- and that
viewers spent an average of 56.7 minutes watching.
The CW audience, however, may not be typical. The network
routinely programs to reach predominantly female viewers between
the ages of 18 and 34, not to mention the occasional sci-fi fan
peeking at "Smallville" or "Supernatural." Those viewers likely
feel more at home watching a TV show in a digital fashion. Mr.
Scanzoni thinks online viewers may even want to watch more ads --
the theory being they are becoming more sophisticated, and have
grown tired of the current ad model, which often consists of
running the same ads from one or two advertisers throughout a
single streamed episode. "When you have a high frequency of
specific advertising, you will turn off the consumer," he said.
Not everyone will agree that online viewers are ready for more
ads. At Hulu, for instance, running fewer ads still holds sway.
"Our experience has shown that a lighter ad load is a better
experience for users and much more effective for advertisers," said
a spokeswoman for Hulu, which is owned by NBC Universal, News Corp
and Walt Disney. At ABC, which has garnered some distinction for
the way it mixes ads with the streaming of its programs, each break
typically sports two 30-second ads, said a network spokeswoman.