INHD is Going Long

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INHD is beginning to run commercials, but viewers of the cable-backed HDTV programming service may not be able to tell that they’re watching advertising, since many spots will come in the form of long-form messaging.

“With all of the talk that advertisers are looking for nontraditional [ad units], they can become integrated in the body of the network,” said Amy Carney, executive vice president of advertiser sales at Sony Pictures Television. In Demand Networks commissioned Sony to oversee ad sales for INHD and INHD2 on July 1.

INHD recently began running traditional 30-second spots from BMW, New Line Cinema and the National Basketball Association — deals that were stuck before Sony came on board.

CONTENT, COMMERCIALS BLUR

While Carney said INHD and INHD2 will continue to offer advertisers 30-second spots, she said a big emphasis would be placed on offering media buyers the ability to run long-form ads, possibly in the form of behind-the-scenes programs for movies, auto browsers, travel programs or shows that could be sponsored by companies such as American Express.

“The line between advertising and programming is obviously blurry, and it’s just going to get blurrier,” said In Demand Networks executive vice president of sales and marketing Sergei Kuharsky.

Kuharsky pointed to ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition — which integrates Sears, Lowe’s Home Improvement and other sponsors into the show — as the type of long-form programming INHD would like to run.

“What we would like to do is bring the added dimension of high-definition to that,” Kuharsky added.

One key challenge for In Demand and Sony is a lack of ratings data for the channels. Nielsen Media Research doesn’t yet rate the channels, each of which are available in about 2.5 million households. But Kuharsky said In Demand runs online surveys with a panel of INHD viewers, and shares the data with advertisers.

INHD rival HDNet also runs advertising.

INHD and INHD2 will only run ads in high-definition, Carney said, noting that viewers would be turned off if the network interspersed standard-definition commercials with HDTV programming.

Most advertisers haven’t yet begun producing HD-formatted commercials, which are more expensive to shoot. But Carney noted that the number of companies that are producing spots in high-definition continues to increase, including General Motors Corp., Toyota, Circuit City Stores, Samsung Electronics, Anheuser Busch, The Gap, McDonalds, American Express and BMW.

KEEPING LOAD LOW

Sony Corp., which markets movies, HDTVs and other electronics equipment, is also a likely sponsor for INHD. However, Carney said SPT’s parent didn’t agree to buy spots on INHD as part of its deal to handle ad sales for the network.

INHD and Sony haven’t yet decided on the number of commercials that will run each hour on INHD and INHD2, but Carney said the companies will keep the load low.

“Some of the movies we will run without commercials,” Carney said. Other movies may be presented by a single sponsor which would get a “brought to you by” tag, while INHD may insert intermissions with advertising units into other movies, she added.

INHD and INHD2 are operated by In Demand Networks, which is owned by Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Entertainment and Advance/Newhouse.

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