ABC Cuts Back On Commercials For New Shows

ABC has done a peculiar thing for the new TV season, holding back ad inventory. It is a bit fuzzy why the network is doing it, though it’s executives insist that, for example, eliminating the first ad break from some new shows might keep viewers engaged deeper into the show and less likely to switch channels.

ABC has removed the first ad break from new programs such as “Flash Forward,” “Eastwick,” Modern Family,” and others starting the new season this week.

Sometimes, networks look to a single sponsor to buy one ad at the start of a popualr new show and one at the end, and offer a commercial free debut as a kind of gift to the viewer from the network and a single advertiser. Ford, for example, has done this with Fox’s 24, and BMW did it with AMC’s Mad Men.

But ABC didn’t try to secure a single sponsorship for this latest idea. Not every show seems to lend itself to the treatment. Fox tried last year to sell single sponsors for new shows “Fringe” and “Dollhouse.” But it dropped the tactic for the new season.

Some media buyers think ABC is seeing if they can get higher prices for the ad time they are selling by making less of it available. But the feeling is that cutting back on the ad pods, which can last five minutes, is a good idea if it keeps viewers in front of the same show for longer periods. Fewer ads, behavior research shows, also tend s to make consumers less likely to skip every ad they see with their DVR.

ABC execs insist they are simply trying to get viewers hooked into deeper into new shows. But for those people with DVRs, who routinely ad skip anyway, of course, it will just be one less commercial pod to hold the FF button down on.

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