A few years ago, we predicted that the spread of DVRs was going to change advertising culture, as viewers gained the ability to jump past commercials and free themselves from scheduled broadcasting times.
Now a new study from the University of Oregon has found that local news broadcasts are being infiltrated by advertising at around the same rate that DVR users skip ads.
The fact that DVRs allow viewers to skip adverts is seen as one of their biggest benefits by users, but advertisers—and the TV networks that depend on them—are not so happy. Ad buyers don‘t want to pay full price for slots that viewers will never see, and TV networks are going as far as asking fans not to watch timeshifted programs but instead watch them live, lest the show in question get canceled.
Since the economies we live in depend on consumer spending, those on the selling side of the equation need a way to get the message out regarding their new product, and if viewers aren’t prepared to watch the adverts, then some other way of reaching them will be used. The researchers looked at 17 different TV stations in the US over a four-month period in 2004. The study, published in Electronic News
, monitored 2 newscasts a month for each station and looked for instances where ‘stealth adverts’ crept into the news reporting. A stealth advert, according to Jim Upshaw, one of the authors of the report, is when a commercial message promoting a product is "cloaked in some other garment than a normal commercial."
Upshaw and his colleagues found that 90 percent of the newscasts contained at least one instance of stealth advertising, including product placement within stories or on the anchors’ desks, and sponsored segments. Small-to-medium sized stations were more susceptible to the trend than those serving larger markets.
We’ve previously reported on the growing trend for product placement
within TV shows, although these are usually at the network level. Since local TV stations make a lot of their revenue from selling ad slots during the nightly news broadcasts, their perceived fear of DVR-using audiences is evidently driving this move from selling advertising between news segments to selling it during those segments.
This isn’t the first time that smaller news broadcasts have come under fire for presenting information to viewers under the guise of reporting when, in fact, they’re promoting someone else’s message. Last year the FCC rapped 77 different broadcasters’ knuckles over the widespread use of video news releases,
where video press releases were used on air and presented as news without being identified as such.