Innovation is frequently just a fancy version of recycling. Better mousetrap? You’re a star. NBC is using February 29 — the leap day of 2016 — to experiment with adding more content to some of its shows. That means cutting back on commercials. Except that the extra content will be sponsored by American Express — so each segment of extra content is a commercial.
Media watchers say the move by NBC — which is adding sponsored content to the Today show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Voice among others — is a reaction to the YouTube-ification of entertainment. And to millennials’ alleged low-tolerance for interruptions from advertisers. But the strategy goes back to the very first TV success story — soap operas. Soap operas, which came to TV from radio, get their name because the programs were sponsored — even produced — by soap companies like Proctor & Gamble, who wanted to reach housewives who were home cleaning things and vicariously living through the afternoon melodramas. American Express is just the new soap at NBC. The extra sponsored content will no doubt trigger aspirations — that’s the product American Express sells best.