The CW boosts online advertising -- and other programmers are likely to follow

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Do you watch the CW’s ‘Gossip Girl’ online instead of on television for convenience or because there are fewer commercials?

If you said the latter, then get ready for some bad news. The CW is going to start running the same number of commercials online as it does over the air. The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, says that CW shows online will have 20 30-second commercials per hour, which is double the current ad load.


The reasons for this are simple. More viewers are watching content online, particularly younger people, which is the CW’s target audience. Advertising is meant to pay for production costs, yet online advertising rates are much cheaper than what it costs to have a commercial run on TV. If more of the CW’s audience is watching shows online, the network needs to recoup more money from that platform -- and that means more commercials. Why online advertising is valued less than TV advertising remains a mystery, but then again so does giving away content in one platform and charging for it on another.

The CW is doing what all programmers are going to have to do, which is make the online viewing experience more like TV from a business perspective. For viewers, that means more commercials. It also means getting advertisers to recognize that if I watch a show online, that should be just as valuable to them as me watching it on TV. Do I pay less attention to the pretty girl in the beer ad because it is online instead of on TV? (The answer is no, if you were wondering.)

Look for others to follow the CW’s lead. Yes, there probably will be complaints about too much commercial clutter, but certainly there should not be more ads online than on television. But the reality is that if content is going to be platform agnostic, then the commercials have to be too.

-- Joe Flint