Operators Rethink 10-Second Avails

As the economy continues to sputter and advertisers cut back on their media buying, media outlets are becoming more creative in how they lure clients to the table. Many broadcasters have begun offering 10-second avails as a way of luring clients who may have shied away from broadcast buys because of cost. Some cable operators eschew 10-second spot sales altogether, while others others have been offering them for years. Most, however, don't use it as much more than a carrot or incentive to participate in a larger package.

"We have been doing this in some markets for many months but it's not a game changer strategy," said Steve Litwer, senior vice president of ad sales for OnMedia, Mediacom Communications' local ad sales division. "In fact, it's so inconsequential that it's not even worth commenting on. My own feeling is that we are just better off selling and tagging a short message into all the taggable cross-promotional spots that we all are provided by the networks."

Charter Communications has also offered 10-second spots for years, according to Jim Heneghan, the MSO's senior vice president marketing and advertising sales. All the cable networks that offer local avails provide "tune-in taggables" - with 20-second spots promoting their shows, he said.

"We simply ‘tag' the remaining 10-second spots with ‘sponsored in part by ... [a client's name],'" Heneghan said. "Of course, we marry the tag with a show promo spot that is focused on their primary demo target."

A bedding client, for instance, would be tagged with an HGTV, Food Network or TBS show spot, he pointed out. Charter sells clients the 10-second spots as part of a flight that includes 30-second spots. He said it increases awareness of the client at an efficient cost.

Bresnan Communications does not see much value in offering clients 10-second avails.

"We are not set up to take 10-second ads," said Kelly Enright, regional vice president of ad sales. "We do take 15-second ads in pairs.

"In reality, I believe below 15 seconds you are limiting the effectiveness of the ad."
Cox Media has seen little interest in 10-second spots by clients. The company has no natural 10-second breaks but, like Bresnan, does offer 15-second spots, said Mike Miller, regional vice president for Cox Media.

"We just haven't seen much demand for them," he said.

KSL Media chairman Kal Liebowitz told TV Week that the 10-second spots are generally priced at about half of what 15-second spots go for, making them economical for clients, especially in these tough economic times. They may appeal to clients from that standpoint, but there aren't that many of them available. There is usually only one 10-second spot per show, which limits their availability. Some cable networks carve out 10-second avails for sponsors of closed captioning and Liebowitz said his company is talking to a number of cable networks about getting into the business. Calls to KSL were not returned by press time.