TV Upfront

FX resets the ad clock with its take on New York Times podcast 'The Daily'

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Michael Barbaro, host of the New York Times podcast 'The Daily,' at SXSW this year.
Michael Barbaro, host of the New York Times podcast 'The Daily,' at SXSW this year.

FX is making its splashiest efforts yet to clean up commercial clutter on TV with its take on the popular New York Times podcast, "The Daily."

"The Weekly," which will feature Times writers discussing their reporting and going deeper on the stories that have been spotlighted on "The Daily," will air with just three, one-minute commercial breaks in its half-hour run time, says David Levy, exec VP of nonlinear revenue at FX parent Fox Networks Group.

That's a 65 percent reduction in ad time and about a 60 percent decrease in the number of spots, he says.

Fox Networks calls the shortened ad breaks "just A and Z" pods, or JAZ for short. The "A" and "Z" positions in a typical commercial break are the first and last ones to run, with others in between. A JAZ pod would include only those two spots.

Local ads will be moved out of "The Weekly" to other parts of the schedule.

The reduced ad time means "The Weekly" will be able to include more content than under the typical TV ad model—an attractive proposition for a weekly news show that could have just as easily found a home on Netflix.

It's the latest move by Fox Networks Group to reduce ad loads. The Fox broadcast network also plans to revamp the commercial format in its Sunday night animation and comedy block next season, shrinking ad loads by as much as 40 percent and implementing JAZ pods there, too. It is also out selling "Fox Blocks," three to six minutes of branded content that will run before or after a show. Just how many Sundays all this will take place, however, remains unclear.

Last year, FX cut its ad time on its digital and on-demand platforms to two minutes an hour from 10 minutes. This year it is starting to extend those efforts to linear TV.

Similarly, NBC Universal is cutting the number of ads in its original prime-time programming by 20 percent next season and decreasing ad time by 10 percent.

But the math is a challenge. In order to retain ad revenue while decreasing commercials, networks inevitably must raise prices on the ads that remain. While it only makes sense that reducing commercial loads would be a benefit for advertisers—fewer commercials likely means better recall among consumers, not to mention less likelihood people will change channels during breaks—just how much it's worth is up for debate.

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