Desperate Housewives: ABC's Advertising Windfall
I haven't really jumped on the Desperate Housewives bandwagon as of yet. I strongly prefer the NBC crime dramas on Sunday, Law And Order: CI and Crossing Jordan. Both have a real style and entertainment value that is more to my personal liking. However, I can't help but comment on ABC's advertising windfall that Desperate Housewives helps to generate.
With a viewership of 27.1 million viewers, second only to the CBS CSI's 28.8 million viewers, Desperate Housewives is an important revenue device for ABC. In May, 30 second ads that went for $450,000 have now shot up to as much as $600,000.
And the program is broken-up into six acts, surrounded by 5 advertising breaks. Desperate Housewives opens with a recap "teaser" with opening credits and then act one. But by 9:09:45 , there is the first advertising break with 6 national commercials and 3 promos for ABC shows. Then there is act two, but by 9:22:25, there is another advertising break with 3 national ads, 2 ABC promos, and 3 local ads. Then there is act three, but by 9:30:22, another advertising break with 5 national ads and three ABC promos once again breaks up the program. Act four then opens, but by 9:40:43, the dreaded advertising break again breaks up the program with 5 national ads, 2 ABC promos and 2 local ads. But then act five finally gets started, but by 9:51:07, 6 more national ads and three ABC promos breakup the programming once again. Finally act six is allowed to continue, and includes both the end credits as well as a preview "teaser" for next week's program as well as a promo to push the Desperate Housewives DVD.
It's an example of the incredible shrinking TV program. At one time, a 60 minute TV program was really about 50 minutes long. Then it slowly became whittled down as Neilsen ratings helped to drive a profit driven market where the success or failure of a program is not measured by the quality of a program, but it's ability to drive ratings that drives advertising revenue. A few years ago when the X Files was the most successful program on FOX, the 44 minute program replaced the longer program on other networks to allow for more advertising to be sold. Now a huge ratings success like Desperate Housewives is breaking the 41 minute program point, which again represents a new shrinking programming standard because the ratings draw advertisers, and since ABC can command top dollar for ads during a 27.1 million viewer powerhouse like Housewives, the temptation of ABC not to market as many ads for as high of dollar value is simply too great.
The Public enjoys TV as a cultural entity. From this viewpoint, the viewing audience embraces and admires Desperate Housewives as a beloved way to spent an hour each Sunday evening. But at ABC, like all TV and cable networks, all programming is merely a business. Desperate Housewives is a vehicle for a network desperately seeking advertising revenues to not only offset the production costs of a top notch program like Desperate Housewives, but to keep a solvent bottom line for a profitable network that functions well.