TV Takes Page From Blogs: “Sponsor Shows” (TWX, CBS)

As TV networks cast around for ways to combat DVR ad-skipping, they’re trying new ad formats.  Product placements are increasing fast, and networks are now experimenting with “sponsor shows.”  (Description from WSJ after jump.

Media buying firm MediaVest pushed the CW network to develop the format after noting that viewers were no longer watching regular ads.  CW plans to flog 1 to 4 brands per show and, shortsightedly, does not plan to explicitly tell viewers that the shows are ads.

(Note to CW: Prepare for backlash.  How to avoid?  Just have your show host explain that the show is sponsored by Wal-Mart, et al.  Then, assuming it’s entertaining, no one but scandal-mongering journalists will care).

As with blog sponsor posts, the key here is relevance: To avoid annoying viewers/users, the shows have to be focused on the same topics as the regular programming:

“We purposely will not put brands in the show that are not relevant to the concept of the program,” says Brian Terkelsen, director of branded entertainment at MediaVest. “Trust me, you will not see us put toe-fungus cream in the show.”

Description from the WSJ:

When the CW network [owned by CBS and Time Warner) launched this time last year, it experimented with a new kind of commercial break designed to look like a minishow built around products. The so-called content wraps were such a hit with marketers that the network is going one better this fall, with a half-hour weekly series in which it will promote sponsors’ products.

“CW Now,” which debuts Sunday, is a newsmagazine-style program aimed at young adults, dishing out segments on what is hot in the worlds of fashion, music, entertainment and technology. The program won’t break for commercials: Instead, at least one of the segments will essentially be a long ad.

The first episode, for instance, sponsored by Wal-Mart [WMT], will include three segments talking up the release of Microsoft’s Halo 3, the latest version of the popular Xbox video game series, and its availability at Wal-Mart…The segments are designed to look like regular magazine-style programs…but the connection with Wal-Mart is clear.