Q&A: TVB Eyeing Ads in Emerging HD Universe

The Television Bureau of Advertising is the not-for-profit trade association representing American broadcasters. Its membership rolls include broadcast groups, ad sales reps, syndicators, international broadcasters, and more than 600 U.S. commercial stations. TVB President Chris Rohrs spoke recently with HD Notebook:

HD Notebook: Some content providers such as ESPN are starting to report higher ratings numbers for their HD channels than their SD ones. Should broadcasters be charging higher fees for HD-produced ads on HD channels?

Rohrs: There is no premium being charged for HD ads at the present time and I don’t anticipate that’s going to change. HD enhances the consumer experience with TV, just as the DVR does. Both support the all-time record viewing levels we’re seeing [now] and those levels translate into advertiser demand, ad rate growth, and revenue.

HD Notebook: But as far as higher fees, or a lack thereof, it sounds very similar to when the advent of color never brought an increase in fees charged to advertisers?

Rohrs: When color television began to penetrate American households in the 1960s, it was accompanied by decreasing levels of non-TV households. From 1960 to 1970, the percentage of U.S. households with television sets jumped from 87.1 to 95.3 percent. In other words, the audience expanded. Even though TV penetration is now nearly universal, we expect the HD transition will increase ‘time-spent’ and other metrics important to the advertiser, and those gains will make increased ad rates unnecessary.

HD Notebook: How will the mass migration of HD content into the home, now underway, affect other advertising issues in the long run, if at all?

Rohrs: The ad community is working on [creating] more commercials that are produced in HD. They’re becoming aware that planting a non-HD spot in the middle of beautiful HD-produced programming is not a good way to retain the viewer. I believe you’ll start to see a seamless HD experience—whether it’s programming or commercial spots. We believe HD will play out as the most valued consumer benefit of digital [technology].

While content will continue to flow to computers and hand-held screens, America’s embrace of the big screen will grow as well, fueled by HD content. This is permanently a multi-screen world and viewing to all of them will continue to grow.