BSkyB triggers ad spots debate

BSkyB’s plans to sell spot advertising in the digital TV market could force advertisers to take spots in ad breaks they do not want, according to industry critics.

The satellite broadcaster, which is expected to launch the first tranche of 200 new digital channels in early April, will be able to stagger the start time of its films across a number of channels and wants advertisers to buy the same spot during each screening. Staggered starts could be from 15 minutes to two hours apart.

Advertisers would be given an amalgamated rating of everyone who has watched the various showings of the film at the end of its run (usually after one or two weeks).

One source says: “Arguably this is a way of increasing costs and not necessarily cover.”

Mark Chippendale, BSkyB agency sales controller, denies this method of selling spots will mean ads appearing in breaks at unsuitable times.

“That is obviously not in our interests either. This method makes logistical sense. If an advertiser follows one movie throughout a week you maximise the coverage with minimal frequency.”

Coverage is the percentage of the population seeing at least one spot. Frequency is the number of times the viewer sees the ad.

And Andy Roberts, buying director at media buying agency Motive, says: “Buying the spot relative to a film makes sense – you can’t administer everything on a spot by spot basis with 200 channels.”

Chippendale says BSkyB wants to start a debate among media agencies about how to sell spots – the “bread and butter side of the business” – in the digital age.

Although there will be an explosion in the number of channels available, BSkyB does not anticipate a corresponding increase in the number of people used to sell spots, or in media agencies to do the buying.

Chippendale says: “We don’t want digital to account for two per cent of media agencies’ business and ten per cent of their headache.”

He says sport fixtures such as the Ryder Cup golf competition may be sold with additional pay-per-view services across several digital channels, for example, offering golf fans the chance to watch every hole played as well as the standard coverage for other Sky subscribers.

BSkyB has signed a deal with Warner Bros to show Warner-Bros movies on pay-per-view and near-video-on-demand services in the UK and Ireland several months earlier than screenings on Sky Movies Screen 1 and Sky Movies Screen 2.

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