Atlanta-headquartered Weather Channel and Starcom USA have entered into an unusual - possibly even unique - deal in which the latter's clients are guaranteed a specified audience during transmission of their commercials.

Should the channel, whose coverage is nationwide, fail to deliver on its guarantee, it will offer additional time free of charge. In return, Starcom guarantees a given spend on behalf of its clients.

Although there is nothing new in networks offering advertisers minimum-audience guarantees, until now (in the US at least) these have covered only program content, not commercial breaks.

Warranting audiences for ads will likely be seen as manna from heaven for advertisers and agencies concerned at the growth of TiVo and other ad-skipping devices.

Says Starcom evp Chris Boothe: "With TiVo and DVRs, it has become more and more important for us to prove to our clients that their messages are engaging." Agency colleague Natalie Conway adds that once the deal is implemented, Starcom will consider floating the idea to other TV outlets.

However, it could be impractical for rival channels to offer a similar deal. The Weather Channel's programming is unusual in that it comprises short bursts of information and its minute-by-minute viewing data indicates that people stay tuned for the commercials.

Moreover, the channel exploits these 'short-burst' viewers by running more and shorter ad breaks than its rivals.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff