Commercial Broadcast Radio with…No Commercials?

The New York Times Business section has an interesting story this morning on how one of Clear Channel’s stations in Dallas is eliminating all of its 30 and 60 second commercial spots, because they’ve finally come to the conclusion that people hate listening to them. To replace that revenue, they’re signing up sponsors for hour-long blocks of programming and tasking their DJs with working their products into conversation. Think something like this: “And that was ‘Leaving on a Jetplane’ by John Denver. You know, when I need to leave on a jet plane, I choose Southwest Airlines, and here’s why…”

This is obviously a response to the popularity of subscription satellite radio and the proliferation of the iPod, though it’s really not a new thing. In fact, it’s how most early commercial broadcasts used to function. Many 1950s TV shows not only had exclusive sponsors, but sometimes were even named for the sponsor. One show that started as early as 1947 and introduced many big stars to the small screen, Kraft Television Theater, was essentially a wholly owned production of its eponymous sponsor, yet turned out some excellent early TV content. Actors like Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, James Dean, and Rod Steiger all appeared on the show, sandwiched between conveniently placed cooking demonstrations featuring delicious Kraft products.

Kraft TV logo