THE ANSWER IS ABSOLUTELY NO, television channels cannot run without advertisement.
Is it even possible for a television channel to exist without commercials?
Consider a world where there are no television commercials. According to one panellist at this week’s NATPE conference in Miami Beach, that reality has already arrived for an entire generation of younger viewers.
“There is a generation of viewers who have never seen a commercial,” said Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix, a panellist. It was a statement I’d never considered before, and if it had come from an ad industry panel discussion, the enthusiasm in the room would have been palpable.
As it turned out, the statement was generally ignored by this particular audience of programming types—content providers, consumers, dealers, and wannabes.
Can A Television Channel Run Without Advertisement?
On the panel “Scripted State of the Union: Will Creative Excellence Survive Tough Business Realities?” Greenberg addressed The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) is an organization of television program executives.
Its annual conference, which used to be a place where national syndicators could sell their shows to broadcasters, now attracts attendees from all corners of the “content” world.
During a panel among the panellists regarding the distinctions between scripted shows viewed on pay cable and streaming sites like Amazon and Netflix and those developed for commercial purposes, the question of advertising came up.
The general consensus was that coming up with the next “Big Bang Theory” for a broadcast network is still a “home run” for anyone with the talent and/or luck to do so.
However, because such home runs are rare, creative people are increasingly attracted to these alternative program platforms, where their creative freedom is unrestrained and their compensation is commendable, albeit not on par with network television.
One panellist, agent Peter Benedek, a founding partner in the United Talent Agency, stated, “Conventional broadcast network television is the place where [creative] people are least inclined to go.
” Another panellist, Gary Levine, president of programming for Showtime, said that “They will deliberately renounce [the possibility of a large payment] to go somewhere they can truly write something they’re going to be proud of.”
There was a lot of debate about FX President John Landgraf, who has been at the vanguard of generating edgy comedies and dramas in this current Golden Age of scripted television. Landgraf feels there are “too many” good written shows for viewers to properly absorb, a viewpoint he first started last summer. For months, his comments about “too much TV” have sparked a heated debate in the television industry.
Landgraf’s words elicited mixed reactions from the NATPE panel. Levine, one of the panellists, was on the panel. He observed, “We appear to be the only part of the culture that bemoans the dearth of decent programming.
” When was the last time someone said there were too many great movies or restaurants in your neighbourhood? The United States has 320 million people, and the thought of 400 scripted shows is a disaster? ”
The intersection of television content and product integration was the topic of another panel discussion at NATPE. If commercial breaks are phased out in the future, integrating brands into TV shows will become even more important – possibly the only way to “advertise” on television (except for living broadcasts such as sports events, whose built-in breaks are tailor-made for commercials and would likely remain so).
One of the participants on the “Masters of Marketing: What Brands Need to See” panel was Dan Harmon, the creator of the NBC show “Community.” The sitcom about a community college debuted on NBC before switching to Yahoo for its final season last year.
Product placements on “Community” were well-received, particularly with Subway sandwiches. An entire storyline centred on the brand was featured in one particularly memorable episode from 2012. Not only was there a Subway banner on set, but a guest character was named “Subway,” and other characters throughout the show greeted one another with the slogan “Eat fresh.”
Harmon, who is known for his outspokenness and rebelliousness, might have been offended by the intrusion on his TV show, but he admitted last week that he never had an issue with it, especially after convincing Subway not to interfere with his work.
Subway, for example, requested a presence on set, which Harmon turned down. Surprisingly, Subway backed down on these (and other) requests while still giving $300,000 to the production budget, allowing Harmon to do anything he wanted.
Harmon stated Subway’s engagement in the program was no different than that of the other corporate partners he had to deal with at the time, including NBC, Sony, Paramount, and all of the other co-producers.
“I’m looking forward to the day [when] more people are prepared to pay money to tell stories,” Harmon added.