Are TV networks allowed to advertise their shows on rival networks?

Let’s say NBC wanted to advertise a TV show. Could they go to ABC and put their ad on? And if ABC refused, could NBC sue them for descrimination?

I’ve never seen any broadcast network’s show being advertized on another broadcast network. I think competition between broadcast stations is too tight that any would be stupid enough to accept advertisements from rivals. There are still markets out there where broadcast stations are the medium, not cable. At maximum, there would be 6 broadcast network stations in a market (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, UPN, WB). This is a very tight field.

I don’t think refusal of an ad based on the fact that it’s a direct rivals ad is illegal. If the ad were rejected on, say, ethnicity of the actors, that could be illegal. (Unless the ad portrayed them in an offensive stereotypical way, in which case the non-accepting network would be taking a moral high ground.)

Cross-network ads would be similar to this situation: if Kellogg’s accepted and printed Cheerios (General Mills) ads on Rice Krispies (Kellogg’s) boxes. It ain’t gonna happen.

However, on cable networks, I quite often see ads from other networks, even some broadcast. But usually the genre of the ad is different from the network showing it. This minimizes the number of viewers that will switch (how many Sci-Fi Channel watchers are going to change to Lifetime to see another Valerie-Bertinelli-as-a-beaten-spouse movie?). But there will be the occasional viewer that the ad will appeal to. They will note the program advertised (usually at a quite different time than the ad’s running time), and watch it when it doesn’t matter so much to the network running the ad.

I think the cable network policy is not only a professional courtesy, but a survival method. There can be from dozens to hundreds of network channels on cable. If they didn’t take cross-network ads, most of the little ones would die.

For example, say all the Sci-Fi fans watch Sci Fi Channel, humor fans watch Comedy Central, women watch Lifetime, sportheads watch ESPN. With no cross-network ads, their ratings won’t change. After a time, only the most popular networks are viable because the others don’t have the ratings to claim good ad rates. So with, say, just ESPN and Lifetime in business, people will get tired of cable network programming altogether and the medium will suffer.

But by lightly juggling the viewing preferences (Comedy Central viewer sees that F/X is showing MAS*H reruns and switches), it guarentees that more networks will survive and so too will the medium.

How many of the cable channels advertising other cable channels are owned by the same conglomerates? Disney owns “Discovery Channel”, “Animal Planet”, “TLC” (I believe), and likely several more. IIRC, Viacom owns “Comedy Central”, “MTV”, “VH1” and likely a host of others. Most likely, much of the cross-advertising of non-broadcast networks is for other channels in the same corporate family.
And AWB, post more photos of CRB!!!

The competing network is free to discriminate all they want, as long as they aren’t doing it on the basis of the protected groups, i.e. gender, race, color, religion, etc. (did I miss any?).


Short answer to the OP:

Yes, NBC could certainly advertise on ABC. But the question is, why would ABC allow them? And if they did, they’d charge NBC a pretty penny, you can bet on that. It’s a free market system, ABC can charge whatever the traffic will bear for advertising minutes.

And no, if ABC refused to run NBC’s ad (they’re not obligated to accept all potential advertisers’ ads), NBC could only sue them if ABC had said something like, “We won’t run your ad 'cause you got all them black folks in it, and we don’t like them black folks.”

I also bet ABC would refuse to accept any ads that made fun of Mickey Mouse, no matter how much money the advertiser offered them.

As other’s noted, in the U.S. TV and radio stations are businesses, not common carriers, so they don’t have to carry competitor’s ads. That said, with industry consolidation, it’s getting harder to tell which stations are truly competitors–for example, there is some common ownership between the NBC and PAX TV networks, and, in the Raleigh-Durham, NC market both the CBS and Fox affiliates are run by the same company. Also, in radio, nowadays it’s common for one company in a large market to own 10+ stations in the market.

I have heard of rare cases where a non-co-owned radio station has been allowed to advertise over another radio station. The key here is that the other station’s format is so different that there would be very little loss of listeners. Moreover, this almost always takes place right after the station running the ads has radically changed its format, so it knows it’s going to lose the old listeners anyway, e.g. a station changes from easy listening to headbanger rock, and it’s getting a lot of outraged phone calls from its old listeners threatening to come down to the studio with their canes and beat some sense into the staff, so the station lets another station buy ads along the lines of “if you miss the soothing sound of the old standards, tune to xxx at xxx on your radio dial”.

in the quincy illinois market, and i’m sure more, there was no fox station. so the nbc affiliate had a deal with the fox network to show the football games on nbc, so the local yokels could see their football. so you’d see the fox commercials on nbc, at least for the three hours the football was on.

I will as soon at the servers software will let me upload some more. It’s buggy right now. :frowning:

Viacom owns CBS too. That’s why you saw so many MTV tie-ins on the Super Bowl.

Another thing is sometimes when two networks have a stake in something, they’ll advertise for each other.

Case in point: a few years ago, Fox had the broadcast rights to the NHL, while ESPN had the cable rights. During the playoffs, when the same two teams would play several games in a row, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the Fox folks say “be sure to tune in for games 4 and 6 on Fox. ESPN will have game 5 for you.” This was done for mutual advantage, as the networks were trying to boost hockey viewership.

Now, ABC has the broadcast rights to the NHL, so it’s all under the Disney umbrella (meaning: we get to see a lot of the Miserable Ducks of Anaheim), so this is moot. During the Super Bowl, though, I half-expected CBS to promote ABC’s broadcast of the Pro Bowl, instead they went for the lame “check your local listings.” As if it’s a PBS program that’s on at different times in different markets.

The only advertising a station really has to take are the politicals (All politicals must be offered the same deal at end rate). And even then a station might take a particular political to court if they feel the subject is too shocking.

Ummm. . . I hate to try and simplify things but.

People in the business of selling ads (i.e. every newspaper, television station, syndicate and network in the country) will sell ads to anyone as long as they think it won’t inhibit their ability to continue to sell ads.

CBS is reluctant to sell ads to ABC (for ABC shows) because if people respond to the ads, they won’t be watching CBS and CBS’s ads will be less valuable.

God forbid anyone suggesting that advertising doesn’t affect people’s behaivor. (Sadly, it does.)

[anecdote]A couple of years ago, when Dave Letterman first moved to CBS, he threatened to buy ad time on NBC because he did not get nearly the same amount of promotion that his contract dicatated. NBC offered to swap time with CBS jokingly. Ever since, CBS is promoting the living daylights out of Dave (to little avail).[/anecdote]


On what basis? Race, creed, national origin, sex, handicap?

They advertise in another way. By going on Leno or Letterman. You see people from other networks on there all the time.

      • Somewhat Related: I read somewhere that several major networks had invested in Tivo (the hard-disk entertainment-appliance that records TV shows in a hard drive, and that can automatically skip commercials during playback) because they thought it had good market potential, but none would air advertisements for it because it would annoy all their other advertisers. - MC

. . . at which point the host announces, “She is currently appearing in ‘Program X,’ which airs on another network. Please welcome . . .” Mentioning the competition’s name in an entertainment context is a no-no.

Dude, you see Letterman say stuff like “Let’s all welcome David Duchovny, from Fox’s hit show, The X-Files!” all the time!


I think you have to look at this from a different perspective. Back when cable tv networks were battling the FCC over mandatory must-carry local channels, they conceded they’d carry all local channels with a proviso that included a bit of cooperative advertising between network & cable. I think the practice was intended to be phased out and should be pretty minimal today unless these broadcasters decide to put some money together. And I guess that was the FCC’s point, to get the networks and cable to work together over the only thing they agreed on: dumping tons of advertisements on people for money.
Anyway, what freaks me out is seeing the same season of a regular TV series that’s on network and cable at the same time. I saw “Law & Order” running on NBC and the next week I saw the same episode on USA Network.

Happens on ABC and CBS (not sure about NBC) with their golf coverage all the time now. They show the tournaments for the three tours the next week, and who’s got the coverage, and often say something about “our good friends at CBS.” As Montfort mentioned, it happened with the NHL playoffs regularly. For some reason, it never happens with football–as though anyone’s going to stick around for some crappy '70’s movie after the 12:30 playoff game rather than switch to the other network anyway.