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Networks to test new ways to connect

Kai Ryssdal May 13, 2008

Networks to test new ways to connect

Kai Ryssdal May 13, 2008


Kai Ryssdal: The strike-shortened television season’s winding up, but the networks are already looking ahead to the fall.

TV’s upfronts are this week. That’s when advertisers get a sneak peek at what broadcasters have to offer and then figure out what ad space they’re going to buy.

Television audiences have been declining for a while now. There’s competition across hundreds of channels, not to mention the web. The writer’s strike didn’t help either. All of which means network executives are doing whatever they can to attract viewers wherever they can: high-definition blockbusters or sitcoms on a cell phone.

Problem is they have to convince advertisers all that content’s worth their money.

Enter a new idea from Disney and its networks ABC and ESPN.

ESPN’s vice president of research Artie Bulgrin explains:

Artie Bulgrin: We are establishing an emerging media ad lab…

An ad lab sounds pretty scientific and it is — the word Bulgrin used was clinical.

Later this year, the networks are going to start measuring the emotional responses we have to advertising in all its forms: online, on screen or on our cell phones and they’re going to do it by measuring heart rate and this:

Bulgrin: Galvanic skin response, which is a measure of skin conductance and give us an indication of the viewer’s state of psychological arousal while watching TV or engaged in other media.

Jim Cooper: Almost feels a bit like a lie detector test, so I am sure it will freak some people out, but you never know.

Jim Cooper’s executive editor at Mediaweek. He says once you get past the idea of watching TV with electrodes hooked up to your skin, the labs makes sense for networks that are desperate to keep viewers’ attention and advertisers’ dollars.

Cooper: If it works and it gives the networks a little bit of an insight into their consumers, it might be something that they could fold into their marketing portfolio of tricks to reach out to advertisers and viewers.

Still, I’ve got to tell you, nothing beats skipping all those ads with a TiVo.

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