'Saturday Night Live' Will Cut Ads by 30% Next Season

Also Offers Marketers Limited Branded Content Pods

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'Saturday Night Live': (from l.) Colin Jost, Michael Che, Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley and Jay Pharoah as Shaquille O'Neal during a Weekend Update segment this month.
'Saturday Night Live': (from l.) Colin Jost, Michael Che, Kenan Thompson as Charles Barkley and Jay Pharoah as Shaquille O'Neal during a Weekend Update segment this month. Credit: Dana Edelson/NBC

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" is paring down its commercial load, with plans to cut about 30% of ads out of the sketch comedy show next season.

It will do this by removing two commercial breaks per episode, giving viewers more content, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman-advertising sales and client partnerships, NBC Universal.

And for advertisers, NBC will also be offering a limited opportunity to partner with "SNL" to create original branded content. These native pods will only occur six times a year, Ms. Yaccarino said.

"As the decades have gone by, commercial time has grown," Lorne Michaels, creator and executive producer, "Saturday Night Live," said in a statement. "This will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live."

The move comes as "SNL" prepares to enter its 42nd season and the home stretch of the 2016 presidential election, which plays to its strengths in current-events comedy.

"SNL" is averaging 6.4 million live-plus-same day viewers and a 1.9 rating in the coveted 18-to-49 demographic season-to-date, flat compared to the same period last year.

There's been a concerted effort on the part of the TV industry to make the viewing experience more consumer friendly by reducing commercial interruptions and weaving in brand messaging that more closely resembles the content viewers tuned in to watch.

NBC partnered with American Express on Leap Day to give viewers additional content from shows like "The Voice," "Blindspot" and "Late Night With Seth Meyers." The stunt replaced nearly 18 minutes of commercial time with programming that was sponsored by AmEx.

Viacom and Turner are also working to reduce the number of commercial minutes in prime time.

But the "SNL" initiative is not a one-off stunt or limited test. "This will be weekly and on-going," Ms. Yaccarino said, adding that this makes it different than other such efforts.

For "SNL," which boasts a younger audience, an improved experience is something the audience has come to expect, Ms. Yaccarino said.

"This is a show that knows who its audience is and can capture and nurture it," Ms. Yaccarino said.

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