Big business: Placements up in '07

'Idol' leads network branding boom, but cable numbers drop by 9%

Product placements on network television rose about 9% last year to 85,846 occurrences through Dec. 30, totaling more than 137 hours in 2007, according to Nielsen's Product Placement Service.

In contrast, cable placements fell at just about the same 9% rate but still tallied 374,897 occurrences through Dec. 23, lasting more than 600 hours on just the five cable channels tracked by Nielsen's PlaceViews service — TLC, MTV, A&E, HGTV and Bravo. Those figures are down from 410,185 occurrences lasting nearly 667 hours in 2006.

"Cable has much more product-placement activity, but it has had a bit of a decline when it comes to background placements," said Annie Touliatos, director of product development and marketing at Nielsen's Product Placement Service. "It may be that the cable networks are managing their inventory in the programs a bit more to give exclusivity to the brands they do have relationships with and to reduce clutter."

Touliatos said that broadcast placements were up in 2007 after being fairly flat in 2006, partly because of ABC's "Fast Cars & Superstars," which on its own tallied 3,231 occurrences. "One or two programs can really affect trends because we are looking at just primetime for the broadcast networks," she noted.

She said there has been about a 30% increase in broadcast primetime product placement overall since Nielsen began tracking it in September 2003.

On network television, "American Idol" retained its title as the program with the most placements for the second consecutive year — 4,349 in 2007 compared with 4,086 in 2006 — but NBC took over the No. 1 spot from CBS as the network with the most placements on its air. Fox rose from third place to second, CBS fell from first place to third and ABC dropped from fourth to fifth. But despite its fifth-place ranking, ABC still featured 13,077 placements on its air in 2007, compared with 8,678 in 2006. Fox had 17,752 placements vs. 15,658 in 2006, while NBC's tally rose to 20,872 from 16,622. CBS' total was the only network's to fall, from 18,437 to 16,340 placements.

Six of the seven brands featured most on network television in 2007 were the same as those in 2006. Coca-Cola ("American Idol"), 24 Hour Fitness ("The Biggest Loser"), Chef Revival Apparel ("Hell's Kitchen"), Dell, Nike and the Chicago Bears held six of the seven top spots for most-placed brands in both years. All the brands' spots shifted slightly except for Coke, which retained the No. 1 position with 3,172 occurrences, down slightly from 3,351 in 2006.

In addition to Fox's "Idol," the other top five broadcast programs with the most placements in 2007 were "Biggest Loser" (NBC), "Fast Cars & Superstars" (ABC), "America's Next Top Model" (CW) and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (ABC). "Idol," "Loser" and "Makeover" also were in the top five in 2006, with CBS' "The Amazing Race" and "The King of Queens."

Verbal or audio placements on network television were down slightly to 22,508 occurrences from 22,518 in 2006, but visual placements were up from 60,566 to 68,681.

When tallying placements based on just the top 20 broadcast programs, the 2007 figure rose about 21% to 39,998 occurrences lasting nearly 64 hours, up from 32,968 placements for about 55 hours of brand appearances in 2006.

The top five shows with the most placements on cable last year were TLC's "American Chopper" and "Miami Ink," A&E's "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and TLC's "American Hot Rod" and "Overhaulin'." "Overhaulin'," "Dog" and "Ink" also were on the top five list in 2006, in addition to MTV's "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" and "Pimp My Ride."