Turner CEO: Ad-supported TV will die if commercial breaks don’t change

Turner CEO John Martin (Bloomberg)

Turner Chairman and CEO John Martin said that his company is reducing the number of ads it shows during its original programming while making the ads more targeted.

Speaking with Bloomberg, Martin said that Turner’s research indicates that by making ads more contextual and by reducing the number of ads, viewer recall of the ads goes up 10%.

“So you have higher ratings, higher recall. We are reducing the commercial ad loads on a number of original programs, and are making up for it by making the advertising better and more contextually relevant. It’s like 12 months of Super Bowl ads,” Martin said.


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Martin said that it will be vital for the future of ad-supported TV to alter the current ad break structure.

“Ad-supported television is not going to be able to sustain if you continue to interrupt the television shows with very quick spots and dots commercials. There has been so much innovation in distribution and programming, and there has not been a lot of innovation in advertising. Over the next five years, there will as much or more innovation in advertising than any of the other areas of the business,” Martin said.

RELATED: Turner programming chief Reilly said reduced ad load has improved ratings

Last year, Turner Networks entertainment chief Kevin Reilly said his company’s gamble on reduced ad loads for its original shows is paying dividends.

"We're finding good results with that. Not only is commercial viewing higher, we're seeing a nice ratings lift," Reilly said.

Turner cut ads by 50% for shows including “Animal Kingdom” and “Good Behavior,” and added up to 10 minutes of additional series programming.

Of course, Turner is not alone in tackling the issues associated with the frequency of ad breaks. Following through on a move it had been telegraphing for months, the NFL earlier this year confirmed plans to remove one of the commercial breaks during games.

“Together with our broadcast partners, we will be working to meaningfully reduce downtime and the frequency of commercial breaks in our game. We will also be giving our broadcast partners increased flexibility to avoid untimely breaks in the action. For example, we know how annoying it is when we come back from a commercial break, kick off and then cut to a commercial again. I hate that too. Our goal is to eliminate it,” wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a note to viewers.

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