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TV Everywhere wants commercials everywhere too

June 26, 2009 |  1:25 pm

One perk to watching TV shows online is that there are few commercials. On Hulu, you usually have to sit through only a handful of spots from a single sponsor in a 30-minute show. It's great for viewers, but it's another reason why the site isn't making any money.

That's one thing Comcast and Time Warner are hoping to change with their online venture TV Everywhere. The service, which will be tested next year with an eye toward a fourth quarter roll-out, wants to carry the same load of commercials shown on television.

"It's something we're going to test," said Matt Strauss, Comcast's senior vice president of new media. There are already skeptics out there as to whether the online audience will tolerate the heavy commercial loads on television.

Chris Allen, a vice president at Starcom, a media buying firm, told Broadcasting & Cable's Claire Atkinson that "there is no way you can have the same ad load."

Of course, it is easy to say that now when other sites have so few commercials. Once Comcast and Time Warner take the plunge, Hulu and other sites will likely feel they have a greenlight to jump on board as well. The reality is that the only way content online works economically for big media is either with a pay wall (good luck) or more ads. While it's true that some advertisers pay a premium to be a sole sponsor of a show online, that money alone is probably not significant enough to solve the problem of -- to overuse NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker's quote -- trading analog dollars for digital dimes.

Comcast's Strauss says the companies are talking with Nielsen to see what it will take for the ratings service to include broadband in its "C3" ratings, which includes the original telecast of a show and DVR/TiVo viewings.That way, networks can sell advertisers across all platforms and charge more. It does not seem like an insurmountable hurdle, but then neither does getting ratings out every day and Nielsen often struggles with that, so who knows?

-- Joe Flint