Anti-surfing plans at ABC Family

Cabler bows 'teasing' ads to hook viewers

ABC Family has launched several new initiatives to keep viewers from flipping away during commercial breaks.

The key commercial retention strategy, dubbed “Tease ‘N’ Reveal,” will kick off commercial breaks with some sort of enticement to viewers to stay tuned. The payoff will come later in the break.

For example, during original series, the top of the commercial break will include a tease promising a scene outtake, or a preview of next week’s episode. The actual clip will then run right before the episode returns.

In the case of theatrical movie screenings, the commercial break will open with a trivia question — with answers revealed later.

It’s a simple idea, said ABC Family prexy Paul Lee, but one he hopes will help train viewers to stick around rather than channel surf.

“We do want to be innovative and let advertisers know that we’re trying to be ahead of the pack,” Lee said. “We’ll also be wiping to ads and finding interesting ways to go into a break.”

Audience retention has become an even greater issue for advertisers as Nielsen starts releasing commercial viewing data — and cable nets have been hit particularly hard.

“We listened to our advertisers and are attempting to address their needs,” said Laura Nathanson, exec vice president for ad sales at ABC Family. “We believe these tactics reflect our commitment to finding advertising solutions.”

Sponsorships also will be sold on the “Tease ‘N’ Reveal” segments, which will launch in early 2008. Other networks have been trying similar segments — including NBC.

Meanwhile, the cabler is also launching a viewer rewards program as another on-air initiative. Viewers will be directed on the channel to ABC Family’s website, where they’ll answer questions about both programming and commercial content.

In the process, the users will enter sweepstakes and rack up points for additional prizes.

“We’ve got a big, passionate group already online,” Lee said. “This will not only build up more of that passionate following on, but it’s great for advertisers and great for commercial retention.”

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