The other reason the networks need viewers to keep watching ads is that Nielsen Media Research, the ratings arbiter, intends soon to begin measuring viewership of commercials as well as programs.
One way that many networks hope to engage viewers during commercial breaks is by wedging original content into the blocks of advertising time, so that viewers will anticipate seeing something fun if they sit through a few ads.
Fox Broadcasting, for instance, tried out a series of clips for two weeks last month about an animated character named Oleg, a New York cab driver, who popped up in eight-second vignettes during commercial breaks in series like “24.” CW has been running “content wraps,” which mix sponsor products into program snippets.
Some experiments involve the cast of the shows in which the commercials appear, serving as hosts for the breaks. That is a throwback to an era when “cast commercials” proliferated with the stars of series like “I Love Lucy,” “The Beverly Hillbillies” and even “The Flintstones.”