TV works to bring consumers fewer commercials

By Jeanine Poggi | May 09, 2018 |

Everyone wants to be Netflix -- including, in some ways, the TV networks that have long relied on advertising.

To counter the platforms where ads are sparse or non-existent, networks are trying to cut back. While the effort has been fitful, next season will see its biggest push yet. But one stubborn obstacle persists: making the money work.

To maintain revenue while trimming ads, networks must raise prices on the remaining spots. Less commercial clutter seems like it should make ads more effective (and reduce the chance that viewers change the channel during breaks), but how much that's worth is in debate.

Here's a look at some of the places where you'll find fewer ads next season.

Fox Networks Group

Fox plans to shrink commercials within shows on Sunday nights by as much as 40 percent, according to media buyers familiar with the pitch. During shows like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" it plans to implement "just A and Z" pods, or JAZ for short, which include just two spots and run no more than a minute.

It won't extend shows to fill the time. Instead, Fox is also out selling "Fox Blocks," three to six minutes of branded content to air before or after a show.

NBC Universal

NBCU will cut the number of ads in at least 50 original prime-time shows across its broadcast and cable channels by 20 percent and shrink ad time by about 10 percent. This will extend the content of the programs where the ads have been reduced.

The company is also pitching a "prime pod," which it says uses A.I. to match advertising with shows' content. The program could identify a sad scene in an upcoming "This Is Us," for example, and suggest running a contextually relevant ad from Kleenex. The resulting 60-second pod will take the first or last ad break of the show and include two advertisers max.

Pop TV

The former TV Guide Network plans to reduce ad loads in all first-run episodes of its original prime-time series, starting with "Clique" and "Wolf Creek" this fall, taking Pop's national ad load from 13.5 minutes per hour down to eight minutes in these episodes.