I’m fairly confident this is the last article I’ll be writing that focuses heavily on Batman. The first, of course, was Batgirl and the Batman Phenomenon, followed by William Dozier’s Unsold Dick Tracy Pilot (while not about Batman per se, there are strong connections between that series and this unsold pilot) and then Broadcast Twice a Week (or More). And now, in my first article of 2010, I’ve covered ABC and Batman’s Fourth Commercial Spot. Here’s the summary:
In the mid-1960s, it was industry practice to include just three minutes of commercials in every half-hour of prime time. When ABC premiered Batman in January 1966, it ignited a firestorm of controversy by adding a fourth minute. Affiliates protested and one station took the incredible step of refusing to air the campy, twice-a-week sitcom. Making matters worse was the disclosure that ABC was considering expanding the fourth commercial minute to all its 7:30-8PM programming. In the face of increasing pressure from affiliates, ABC eventually backed down.
I will admit that the controversy ends rather anticlimactically. ABC decides to table the introduction of an additional minute of advertising and that’s it. Based on everything I have access to, although Batman continued to include four commercial minutes, ABC never again attempted to expand the policy. And it does appear that, for the most part, the amount of advertising in a half-hour program stayed relatively stable through the 1970s. If anyone can shed additional light on this topic, either contact me or add a comment at the article itself.