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For TV Advertisers, A Hunt For Live Audiences

ROBERT SIEGEL, BYLINE: Now, if you're a company wanting to buy advertising on television, nowadays you'll find some heavily watched programming more attractive than some other heavily watched programming, for example the old reliable.


SIEGEL: A big, live sports event, or a more novel idea, the familiar musical, performed live.


CHORUS: Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun.

SIEGEL: There's added value attached to those programs because of a big change in the way Americans watch television. More and more people are timeshifting. They're watching on platforms like Hulu or they're recording programs one night and watching them later, possibly with the aid of fast-forward during the commercial breaks. But to hear how that is affecting the economics of television, we've called in Jeanine Poggi, who is TV reporter for Ad Age. Welcome to the program.


SIEGEL: So in an effort to get viewers to watch live without the ability to fastforward through commercials, the networks and the cable channels are doing something that I now understand is called eventizing.


SIEGEL: You get to teach us a new word. What in TV-speak is eventizing?

POGGI: So that was the word that was being thrown around during the presentations that the TV networks made to advertisers a couple of weeks ago for the fall season. They used the word eventizing, which essentially just means to turn a program into an event in a way to capitalize and bring in more live viewerhip.

SIEGEL: To add some urgency to that.

POGGI: To add some urgency, yes.

SIEGEL: In the way that a pro-football game is something that I'm unlikely to record and watch later when everyone's told me what the score was.

POGGI: Absolutely. It's can't-miss TV.

SIEGEL: Are there examples of programming ideas that have been eventized?

POGGI: So now we have a couple coming up. We talked about the "Sound Of Music" on NBC. But there's "Peter Pan" coming to NBC, a live performance of that. Fox is doing something similar with a live performance of "Grease." There are a couple of other things in terms of getting viewers to interact live. So shows, like ABC has "Rising Star," where people can actually vote and instantaneously, their votes will affect the outcome of the show. So you'll see who gets to move forward right then and there.

SIEGEL: So if you recorded that and watched it later you wouldn't...

POGGI: Too late.

SIEGEL: ...Get to vote. Too late, right.

POGGI: Exactly.

SIEGEL: Are there ideas that generate urgency?

POGGI: Yeah, on cable there is, on Discovery, "Survival Live," which is essentially a "Hunger Games" type show where they're taking a bunch of people, putting them on a remote location. And people can watch and send them things. So if they are in need of a water bottle or, hey, we want to call home, here is a cell phone. And they can ask, and people can respond live.

SIEGEL: So what links all of these things together is people should want to watch them live. But, for example, I watched the series "The Americans" almost never live. I would record it and then play it back, and I'd skip through most of the commercials. But sometimes I was too slow on the draw, so I'd see a commercial here or there. Do the advertisers get anything out of my watching it on day two or day three after it aired live?

POGGI: So they do. So there is the commercial viewing three days after a program airs live. And that is counted in the total viewership. So if you're DVRing, or you're watching something on demand - and there's been a big push to put more programming on demand - where a lot of times, the fast-forward button - I don't know if you've noticed...

SIEGEL: You can't use it.

POGGI: ...You go to ABC - you can use it.

SIEGEL: I know.

POGGI: So they disable that. And by doing that, advertisers can count that viewership.

SIEGEL: Just one other thing, Jeanine. Do people actually say eventizing?

POGGI: I hope not. I hope not. But that's the jargon that's being thrown around. And it's really just getting people to get excited. And social media surely has been pushing that along, the idea of wanting to be in the moment, in the conversation, on Twitter, on Facebook, not wanting to miss out. So I think networks are trying to capitalize on that and advertisers right along with them.

SIEGEL: Jeanine Poggi of Ad Age. Thanks for talking with us about it.

POGGI: Thanks so much.

SIEGEL: And for teaching us that terrible new word.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.