Looks like Spike TV overpaid for reruns of HBO's "Entourage," and viewers are the ones paying the price.
Advertising Age noticed that the commercial breaks in "Entourage" have reached epic proportion. According to the industry publication, commercial breaks that run six minutes are not uncommon and there have even been breaks in the 10-minute range.
Normally, commercial breaks on broadcast television run three minutes or so, and cable has breaks of more than four minutes. Cable networks also often have more commercial breaks in their shows and movies than the broadcast networks, particularly in their repeats. But commercial breaks of over six minutes are a surefire way to drive viewers to another channel.
Of course, part of the reason Spike is loading up "Entourage" with so many commercials is because the audience is small. Spike, a unit of cable programming giant Viacom Inc.' s MTV Networks, shelled out $600,000 per episode to HBO for "Entourage" in the hopes that it would draw a big audience and serve as a platform for the channel to promote its original shows, such as "Blue Mountain State."
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Instead, "Entourage" has not gotten good ratings even though in theory the testosterone-filled show about movie star Vinnie Chase, his pals and his foulmouthed agent Ari Gold should be right in Spike's wheelhouse. Not only that, there is no shortage of beautiful women on the show. Why it hasn't worked remains a mystery, but that's why buying reruns can sometimes be as dicey as playing blackjack in Las Vegas.
Spike, apparently not ready to acknowledge it might have overextended itself for "Entourage," is blaming the racy content. Jeff Lucas, executive vice president of sales at MTV Networks, told Advertising Age that "we don't want to put our customers in an environment that is not appropriate for their commercial messages."
But that doesn't really wash. First of all, HBO cleans up some of the language of the show before it sells the program, and also covers up some of the nudity. Secondly, Spike already carries plenty of raunchy programming, including the above mentioned "Blue Mountain State," which at times makes "Entourage" look like "Gilligan's Island."
At a time when everyone — advertisers, marketers and, most important, viewers — is grumbling about the amount of commercials on television, Spike's decision to try to cover its bad bet by pumping its network full of spots is shortsighted.
The ideal length of a commercial break is one in which the viewer has time to run to the kitchen or maybe the bathroom, not one where he or she can, as Advertising Age put it, "brown a chicken for a casserole or walk briskly around the block."