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With Too Many Ads, TV Land Subtracts Content

In network's new math, length of episodes grows to accommodate spots 10/15/2012 02:14:10 PM Eastern

Viacom has come under fire lately for cluttering some of its
channels with extra commercials in order to make up for advertising revenue
shortfalls caused by lower ratings.

But one little-noticed effect of squeezing in more ads is
that networks such as TV Land and Nick at Nite are actually running fewer
episodes of series in many dayparts, sometimes running only five episodes of
sitcoms like King of Queens and George Lopez in a three-hour
block rather than the six 30-minute episodes that normally fill a programming
grid.

On Monday, Oct. 9 from 11 p.m.-2 a.m. ET, TV Land ran four episodes
of King of Queens and one episode of That ‘70s Show. Each one
clocked in at 36 minutes in length. The first episode of King of Queens
had three commercial breaks; the first break ran nearly 6 minutes with 15
different commercials, starting with a promo for TV Land's Happily Divorced.
The next break was about five and a half minutes, starting off with a bumper
announcing that "King of Queens is brought to you by Allstate." Spots
for 12 other advertisers ran in the break. The last break was 5 minutes long,
with 15 spots.

In all, the show had more than 16 minutes' worth of
commercials during a 36-minute program. And the spots crammed into those shows
promote brands belonging to some of the industry's most powerful and
sophisticated marketers, including Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson,
SC Johnson, Mars, Kellogg, Conagra, GlaxoSmithKline, L'Oreal, Nestle, Macy's,
Choice Hotels and Radio Shack. There was even a spot for Dish Network's Hopper
DVR somewhere in the middle of one of the breaks.

"It's ridiculous. They've taken it to new heights," one
media buyer who asked to remain nameless said of the commercial clutter on some
of Viacom's networks. "They've been doing this for a while. It's not a
short-term fix. They admit they're doing it. But the industry doesn't seem to
be bothered by it."

In a statement, a TV Land representative said: "We are
constantly managing our inventory, balancing the needs of advertisers and our
viewers."

During late fringe, 30-second spots on TV Land cost about
$2,400, according to Larry Fried, VP for sales at SQAD, a research company. SQAD
collects invoices from major advertisers representing about 38% of all spending
on cable to produce its NetCosts product.

But Fried noted that an increasing number of spots on TV Land
have been no-charge units, which means TV Land's revenue was down in the
2011-12 season from the 2010-11 season. Fried said TV Land apparently
under-delivered and that it gave advertisers significantly more make-goods
during the third quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year in several
dayparts, including late fringe. "I don't think there's so much demand that
they would have to squeeze that many commercials in," Fried said.

In Q3, TV Land's viewership among adults 18-49 was down 12%
in primetime, when most networks generate the bulk of their ad revenue.
Viewership was up 2% for total day.

Late fringe isn't the only daypart where TV Land shows are
overgrown with commercials.

On Oct. 4 at 4 p.m., the network scheduled an episode of Bonanza
set to end at 5:11; that was set to be followed by another episode of Bonanza
ending at 6:22. An episode of M*A*S*H concluded the three-hour block on the
scheduling grid.

And on Oct. 5, TV Land aired Andy Griffith from noon
till 12:38, followed by two episodes of Gunsmoke, concluding at 3 p.m.

Something similar happened on Nick at Nite on Monday, Oct.
8. The network began, at 11 p.m., four episodes of Friends, four
episodes of George Lopez, two My Wife and Kids shows and two Yes
Dear
episodes, running to 5:30 a.m., meaning that a total of 12 originally
created halfhour shows-plus a load of commercials-filled 6½ hours of the
network's schedule.

Nick at Nite's viewership was down 46% in primetime during
the third quarter in the 18-49 demo and was down 28% over the total broadcast
day.

The commercial load ought to be taken into account, said the
media buyer. "Viacom offers a below-market CPM increase to get volume," the
buyer said. "Buyers think they got a great deal at MTV's rate of change, which
is below what the market is getting. But I don't know who can sit through those
breaks. Who's really seeing our commercials?"

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