NBCUniversal to cut ad time during prime-time shows by 10%

(Ben Munson)

NBCUniversal is planning to reduce the amount of ad time during its prime-time shows by 10% while cutting the number of ads in its commercial pods by 20%.

According to Variety, the Comcast-owned media group will reduce the commercial loads during 50 prime-time shows across its networks, which include NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, E! and USA.

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCU, said that with so many consumers now watching TV and video content on platforms that have either limited commercials or none at all, broadcast network “commercial overhaul was … inevitable.”

NBC's plan to reduce the number of ads includes introducing new formats like 60-second ads that would run either in the first or last break during a show. The network said it will also be using a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based contextual content targeting product to make ads more relevant for audiences.

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NBC is the latest to follow the trend of reducing ad loads or ad breaks as a means of appeasing viewers who have grown accustomed to watching shows with incessant advertising interruptions.

Turner for some time now has been reducing the ad loads during some of its prime-time shows and has been seeing improved ratings in some instances as a result.

Turner CEO John Martin last year told Bloomberg that ad innovation for linear TV is essential in order to maintain the current ad-supported model.

“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.

Last year, the NFL revealed plans to cut one commercial break out of its game broadcasts in an effort to speed up gameplay and better retain viewers’ interest.

“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 fans.

Last year, Viacom also said it planned to cut down on ad loads for some of its flagship networks including BET and MTV.

“Our ad loads in my opinion were unhealthily high,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish during the earnings call.