New WB Show Will Be Commercial-Free -- Almost

WB executives said they're taking a gamble on a summer variety series that will skip commercial breaks and weave advertising messages into the program.

How the format will work and how viewers and sponsors will respond is uncertain, WB Entertainment President Jordan Levin and fellow executives told the Television Critics Association Saturday.

The show, which has the working title Live From Tomorrow, will air for six weeks this summer from New York. Michael Davies, best known for ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, is the producer.

Levin said the WB is counting on younger viewers, calling the show an experiment in which it's possible "not everything will work."

"If there's an audience that will embrace something different like that it's a younger audience, because they've grown up in a world that's been saturated with commercial content," he said.

The show will feature what's hot in pop culture for the week, with summer a fertile time because of the number of blockbuster movies and concert tours, Levin said.

Davies has said the program might, for example, charge a movie studio for an appearance by a star of a film the studio wants to promote.

The format is a response to worries among advertisers and network executives about the rising popularity of personal video recorders, such as TiVo, that invite viewers to zap commercial breaks.

The new show would be the most comprehensive response to ad-zappers but isn't the first. Survivor on CBS has successfully sold product placements of beer, cars and snack foods within the program. But the endorsements supplemented conventional ad breaks, rather than replacing them altogether.

Less obvious product placements are a growing part of dramatic programs, with branded items displayed in a scene by financial arrangement.