November 19, 2001

Before And After

Promotions and Teases

One of the most noticeable features of the morning shows as you watch them critically is the steady stream of self-promotions, many of them short, but so many of them constant.

These self promotions can be as simple as a quick tease for an upcoming segment on the show, a plug within a story for the network's webpage, or a promotion for an upcoming segment on another network program.

In the June period, NBC averaged 31 self-promotions a day. CBS 29 and ABC 25.

At times, whole segments are a kind of promotion. GMA in June ran a portion of Diane Sawyer's interview with Nancy Reagan as a preview to the longer interview that would air on PrimeTime Thursday.

Other promotions are even more subtle examples of cross selling. On June 22, for instance, The Early Show featured six plugs for a Martha Stewart cooking segment. The segment was sponsored by the K-Mart retail chain, which carries Stewart's exclusive line of clothing and housewares. And during the segment, Stewart and CBS host Jane Clayson took care to also plug Stewart's "Pies and Tarts" cookbook. Stewart said it was her "favorite book," though it was unclear whether she meant her favorite among the books she had written or her favorite among all books ever written. CBS then referred viewers to CBS.com for more of Martha's recipes. That, in the end, made the segment for Stewart, K-Mart and CBS a five-point cross promotion.

Researchers coded this segment as selling a book (though Viacom was not the publisher), and separately noted the reference to more recipes on the web site and each of the earlier teases for the segment.

Still other promotions are even more involved. In June, both GMA and Today aired weeklong series in which viewers chose a couple to be married on the show. Each program spent an entire week "preparing" for the big day—which would occur Friday—deciding on ring, dress, flowers, cake, pictures, etc. Many of these segments had products in them as well.

These features might be called meta-promotions. They sell wedding products, for one thing. They are plugged throughout the broadcast. They involve heavy use, also plugged, of the web interactivity. And the segments themselves are self-promotions for the most heavily plugged segment of all, the live TV wedding to come at the end of the week.

(ABC was first with this feature. Both NBC and CBS soon followed suit, but the CBS series fell outside of the time period studied.)

Most of the promos on the morning shows are brief, five-to-fifteen seconds. But they were so numerous, at least in June, the time adds up.

Good Morning America averaged 15 minutes of promotion time per show-a full 18% of the newscast.

The Today Show averaged 10 minutes of promotions per show. CBS averaged five minutes, largely because so many of its promotions were website mentions of no more than five seconds.

The amount of promotions dropped in October, but the disappearance of the clever wedding segments was the major reason.

Still, across the 20 shows studied, 13% of GMA's newscast time, 8% of Today's, and 6% of the Early Show's, were taken up by promos.