Comcast Wants To Insert New Ads Into Old Shows

I enjoy the regular watching of many TV shows, but I tend to let episodes of these shows build up on my DVR until they reach a critical mass (or wait until the episodes are about to vanish from on-demand) and I spend an entire Saturday in the Morran Cave (patent pending) binge-watching while skipping over all those old ads for movies/sales/TV premieres that have already come and gone. But if Comcast has its way, I’ll soon be skipping over completely new, more relevant ads.

See, since DVR use became commonplace, broadcasters have been basing ad rates based not just on the Nielsen rating of a particular airing, but also according to how many people watch that same airing on their DVRs or on-demand within three days. According to Comcast, which isn’t just the nation’s largest cable provider but also one of its largest broadcasters, only about 40% of TV viewing happens within these three days.

Since millions of people watch shows after that 72-hour window has closed, the broadcasters don’t get the credit because the advertisers aren’t paying to have old commercials shown to consumers.

Thus Comcast has come up with a novel idea to reap oodles of new ad money — replacing those old ads in on-demand shows with new ones. So when you go to see who Red Reddington drolly killed on that episode of The Blacklist you recorded in October, the old show would now contain current commercials.

The Wrap reports that Comcast has already completed a test of the technology with its own NBC network shows and some on ABC. The goal isn’t just to open up recorded and on-demand programming to more relevant ads. There is also a mountain of cash to be mined from all the episodes that are not being made available on-demand to consumers.

Most previously aired episodes of a show are not available on-demand from the network because the network rarely owns the full rights to the show and advertisers have not exactly gone gaga for paying to advertise on old shows. But Comcast figures if it can insert the same ads running on this week’s Blacklist into previous episodes of the show, then advertisers can reach the millions of people who are catching up on old programming. And if advertisers are willing to pay, then the networks will pay for the on-demand rights for full seasons of shows.

The biggest hurdle may be the issue of diminishing returns. Yes, this technology would attract a lot of additional eyeballs to advertisers’ commercials, but will the increased audience be large enough to justify a rate increase? And just because you’re putting more relevant ads on an old episode, doesn’t mean viewers won’t fast-forward or go take a bathroom break during the commercials.