Hallmark Channel has become the latest TV network cutting its commercial time to better compete with ad-free experiences like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The cable channel, best known for its original holiday movies, plans to cut ads in its original primetime shows by more than half starting next year. Its sales team is in the marketplace trying to sell advertisers on the strategy during this year's annual upfront talks, when networks look to sell a bulk of their ad inventory for the new season.
Hallmark will air between five and seven minutes of commercials in new episodes of its original hour-long series, such as "Chesapeake Shores" and "Good Witch," said Bill Abbott, president and CEO at Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media. That's down from about 15 minutes of ads per hour now.
Abbott said the goal is to improve the consumer experience, which in turn he expects will increase ratings and create a "pristine" environment for marketers' messages.
Of course, fewer commercials will come at a price to advertisers. Abbott said he expects to be able to charge more for inventory in shows with reduced ad loads.
But as other networks reducing ad clutter have found, making the economics work for both advertisers and networks is a real challenge. A commercial in a show with fewer other ads should stand out better, at least in theory, but there's little proof that it's actually worth a higher price.
Several marketers have been working with Turner networks TruTV and TNT on their efforts to reduce commercial clutter. But there still isn't enough data to make conclusions on the effectiveness and to determine if the economics work.
Last year, Turner began reducing ad loads in select drama series on TNT. It slashed the ad load in the hour-long "Good Behavior" to five minutes from 13. That show saw a 9% lift in C3 deliveries, or commercial ratings over the first three days of viewing.
TNT also plans to run significantly restricted ad loads in its new dramas "Will" and "The Alienist," Turner said during its upfront presentation last month.
TruTV, whose shows include "Impractical Jokers," had aired 80 hours of programming with reduced commercial loads as of the end of the first quarter of 2017. Since the network began lowering commercial minutes in October 2016, its C3 ratings have grown 17%.
Depending on how the initiative performs, Abbott said Hallmark could extend lower commercial loads to its signature holiday programming, the cornerstone of the network's slate each year.
Contributing: Anthony Crupi