60 Minutes will have closer to a full 60 minutes worth of content this Sunday, Oct. 23. For the first time, the 37-year-old newsmagazine will feature a single sponsor, Philips Electronics, and cut the length of commercial breaks in half.
The extra time will be added to stories. After an initial 90-second commercial at the start of the show, 60 Minutes’ first two stories will run uninterrupted. The second half of the program will feature two commercial breaks.
The broadcast will feature stories on a U.S. solder who deserted to North Korea during the Korean War and an interview with former NBA superstar Michael Jordan.
The extra time is “a dream come true” for the show's staff, said 60 Minutes executive producer Jeff Fager, in a statement. “It’s also a bonus for the viewers, who will get to see longer stories with fewer interruptions.”
Philips Electronics opted to advertise on 60 Minutes because of its “simple, straightforward” format, said the Dutch electronics maker's chief marketing officer, Andrea Ragnetti. “By reducing commercials, we could actually help the show extend the length of the stories, thus simplifying and enhancing the viewing experience for the audience.”
This summer, The New Yorker magazine drew criticism when it sold all of the ads in its Aug. 22 issue to retailer Target.
Asked if the single-sponsorship of 60 Minutes raised journalism ethics issues for the show, Scott Libin of The Poynter Institute said he doesn't think so.
“I don't think it fundamentally changes the relationship with advertisers, so long as that advertiser doesn't have any heightened access to content," said Libin, a former TV news director. "It isn't really any different from single-sponsored health reports on the local 5 p.m. news."
60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl first disclosed the special broadcast during an appearance on Comedy Central’s news satire, The Colbert Report. She encouraged viewers to weigh in on whether they liked the result.
She had prefaced her remarks by pointing out that it was late enough at night that she could probably say anything she wanted. CBS apparently agreed.
That would include that she thought the Valerie Plame leak investigation could conceivably grow into a Watergate-like problem for the administration.--Joel Meyer Contributed to this report.