Lower your remote: 6-second ads coming to Fox

Fox Sports POV
Fox Sports plans to roll out YouTube-like 6-second ad units during this fall's NFL telecasts.

After a successful test run during this month’s Teen Choice Awards, Fox says it is going to roll out six-second ads on Fox Sports telecasts, starting with September NFL games.

The company has been talking about the move in recent months but has not disclosed the timing and implementation until now.

Fox Sports President Eric Shanks told the New York Times that a mini-ad “has the potential to gain even more attention than a traditional unit” if it is placed in a unique spot in the telecast.

The first NFL games, on Sept. 10, will feature the spots just before kickoff. Shanks says the network is exploring the use of them during the World Series and other marquee events, mixing them with traditional 15- and 30-second ads or featuring them in on-screen boxes during pauses in game action.

AdAge notes that six-second spots are “all the rage” among digital video purveyors, especially given that historically much of the content did not carry ads. YouTube is credited with pioneering the shorter format online. Traditional broadcast networks, which are clinging to steady ad revenues but also grappling with dramatic falloffs in live viewing, are trying to create innovation in the ad experience and are glad to emulate the digital world if it brings revenue opportunities.

According to Nielsen data reported by the Times, 36% of ads in the first half of 2017 were 15 seconds long and 49% were 30, compared with 29% and 61%, respectively, in 2014.

Fox’s Teen Choice test also involved the network reducing the commercial load by 20% during the broadcast—not too risky a move considering only 1.9 million people watched the show. But Fox’s NFL broadcasts are elite-level, multi-hour powerhouses for the company. Even as pro football has slipped in the ratings, especially in prime time, Fox’s NFC games, which kick off at 4 p.m. on Sundays and often run into prime time, have actually gained viewership.

Scarcity of ad inventory seems to have propped up pricing. Despite the lower overall load during the Teen Choice Awards, Fox was on pace to book 30% higher revenue. Media buyers—in that case, Duracell and Mars—have been willing to pay $75,000 for six seconds of time. That’s roughly equivalent to a conventional 30-second unit during broadcast prime-time broadcasts of shows like Hawaii 5-0 on CBS or 20/20 on ABC, AdAge reported.