Abernethy: Seamless Flow Can Boost Syndies
Jack Abernethy has a new mission: Go for the flow.
The CEO of Fox Television Stations wants to eliminate commercials and other interstitials between newscasts and syndicated shows in hopes of hanging on to more viewers.
“Having seamless transitions between shows in linear TV is long overdue,” he says. “We should have done this 20 years ago.”
Abernethy is already cleaning out the clutter between local newscasts on the Fox stations and in the three Fox first-run syndication shows – 25 Words or Less, Dish Nationl and Divorce Court.
And yesterday, he and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution announced renewals of four shows that are conditioned on Warner Bros. reformatting to the shows for seamless transitions.
The four shows: Extra with Billy Bush, which will be back through the 2022-23 seasons; TMZ and TMZ Live, which got another three seasons; and The Real, which earned two more seasons.
Persuading Warner Bros. to join the effort was not difficult, Abernethy says. “After a fairly short conversation, they said ‘we are in.’ They were very good about it because they saw the value of it to their shows.”
The reformatting does not affect the commercial loads and should be revenue neutral. It simply involves shifting commercial time at the end of show — typically three 30-second spots — into the middle of the shows.
Abernethy says he hopes the reformatted Warner Bros. shows will be ready to go in early December.
Seamless transitions are common in cable, but still much too rare in broadcasting, Abernethy says. He says he recently noticed how proficient cable news networks have become at it. “You don’t know where one show ends and another begins.”
The campaign is based not on research, but on common sense, Abernethy says.
Viewers are mostly likely to switch channels at the end of a show, he says. “Don’t give them a signal — the show’s over, you don’t know what’s happening next, grab the remote.”
Abernethy says he is working on getting other syndicators on board. If everybody does it, everybody wins. “It will be good for the industry, but nobody in particular.”
Some distributors may be reluctant to give up the end breaks because it doesn’t help their own shows, but the shows that follows them. “That’s where we come in,” Abernethy says. “We will get the show [that airs] before you to do it.”
It’s not just commercials that Abernethy has in his sights. He also wants to eliminate the “vanity” or branding slides that syndication producers and distributors slip into the transitions.
Abernethy’s opposition to show-ending interstitials is not absolute. In fact, he says, he is trying to work with the studios to get talent of shows to record two- or three-second promos for all other shows that might follow it.
For instance, he says, Billy Bush of Extra would record “Up next, The Real, “Up Next, TMZ” and others. Stations would plug them in where appropriate.
Working with Abernethy on the campaign is the Fox Stations programming chief Frank Cicha. He says that they are pitching Sony, Debmar-Mercury, CBS and others. “Whether people are all in, we will see. But getting Warner Bros. on board with us early is an important step.”