TV Upfront

Forget C7 vs. C3: One TV Programmer Pushes for 'C-Zero' Ad Sales

Scripps Networks Sets Guarantees for Live and Same-Day Commercial Viewing

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'Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off ' on Scripps' Food Network.
'Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off ' on Scripps' Food Network.

TV broadcasters made an aggressive push in this year's upfront market to get paid for commercials viewed within seven days of airing instead of the industry-standard three. But at least one cable programmer took the opposite approach, turning away from "C7" and "C3," as those standards are known, to sell ads in what it's calling the "C-Zero" window: commercials that are seen live or on the same day they air.

The idea, from Scripps Networks , was to stand out in the upfront marketplace -- when TV networks look to secure a bulk of their advertising for the next season -- by counteracting broadcasters' push for C7, said Steve Gigliotti, president, ad sales and marketing, Scripps Networks.

It's a savvy bit of counterprogramming, so to speak, but also easier for Scripps than, say, CBS, some of whose shows are heavily time-shifted. Scripps -- whose networks include Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel -- are predominantly watched live, with 93% of the audience in the C3 window actually watching programming on the first day, Mr. Gigliotti said.

"We are next to sports as one of the only media companies that provide this concentration of live audiences," he said.

As much as broadcasters want to be paid for ads viewed later, advertisers want their commercials seen right away. After GroupM's decision to strike an agreement with the big four broadcasters to negotiate upfronts on a C7 basis, Mr. Gigliotti saw an opportunity to position Scripps as an option for media agencies and their clients to counter-balance media plans that include C7.

At least one agency, Zenith, has already struck deals for select clients with Scripps on a C-Zero basis during the upfronts.

"For specific categories an aged message can be more harmful then helpful," said John Nitti, president, activation, Zenith.

Movie studios and retailers, in particular, which may be promoting opening weekend or a holiday sale, see little benefit from their messages being viewed outside of the three-day window.

Mr. Gigliotti said Scripps' C-Zero lets an auto marketer, for example, negotiate elsewhere on a C7 basis for broader brand messaging and go to Scripps to promote a timely message like a holiday- or end-of-year sale.

Mr. Nitti also said C7 does nothing to push forward what he believes are more important advancements such as dynamic ad insertion, which allows advertisers to swap out commercials in video-on-demand. Zenith has not struck any deals on a C7 basis, Mr. Nitti added.

Scripps' C-Zero currency could serve to differentiate the company further as broadcasters even look to push beyond C7, with CBS CEO Les Moonves alluding to the idea of C30 and beyond. Fox made the biggest effort to strike deals on a C7 basis during the upfronts, according to media buyers.

Overall, cable programmers are less concerned with C7 than TV's broadcast networks. Unlike broadcasters, which are continuing to see more viewers watch programming on a delayed basis -- and are looking to get paid for such -- cable networks don't usually see any significant pickup in viewership beyond the three-day window. A part of this is due to cable networks' tendency to repeat programming multiple times.

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