I don’t expect a lot of my readers are old enough to remember the early days of television. I’m not either – but I’m a history buff. If you know why soap operas are called soap operas, you probably know that television wasn’t always funded by the 30-second ad spot, or even product placement. In the early days programs would be sponsored by a specific vendor. We see that from time to time these days as special events, such as season premiers aired commercial free due to sponsorship. But Silicon Alley Insider reports NBC is taking it further. The Liberty Mutual Group is sponsoring two made-for-TV movies, which could become a series if successful. Furthermore, Liberty will be involved in developing the scripts, which will feature Liberty’s “Responsiblity. What’s your policy?” message. According to NBC Entertainment Co-chairman Ben Silverman:
Digital manipulation, whether itâ€™s called TiVo or the ability to fast-forward through commercials, is one of the driving factors behind the need to rethink our relationships with advertisers. The 30-second spot is still very relevant, very valuable, but this deal with Liberty Mutual is the centerpiece of the kind of deals we want to make going forward.
I’m not that surprised. I’ve said in the past that the correct response by content providers to disruptive new technologies such as TiVo is not to dig in their heels and try to block adoption, but to find new business models that will work with the new technology. And perhaps some of the new business models may indeed be old models updated for the times. We’ve been seeing more product placement (
FordKnight Rider anyone?) and we’ll see if this kind of sponsorship works out.