Is There Value In 6-Second TV Spots?

Can broadcasters make money with six-second TV commercials? At a reported $75,000 per ad, it seems to make sense for any TV network. But don’t expect this to become a widespread practice for all big U.S. broadcast network programs.

Fox Sports said it would institute some six-second commercial units for live sports programming, including the NFL. It positions those units as commercials with premium value -- real-time consumption of messaging.

Fox first offered six-second commercials with the “Teen Choice Awards” last month.

That awards show isn’t up to the level of NFL programming -- in terms of overall ratings or live viewing. But it did offer less time-shifted viewing than other regular prime-time programming.

Many of Fox’s efforts focused on short-term-attention viewers, especially millennials. The bigger issue is whether all this will move to broader TV usage.



Decades ago, 60-second commercials were the dominant form of TV messaging, before transitioning to more 30-second commercials, and then to 15-second commercials. The latter is believed be two-thirds as effective as 30-second spots.

But is a six-second spot a good deal?

It’s one thing to sell a $75,000 six-second spot, especially when an NFL 30-second unit price can be anywhere from $250,000 (for Sunday afternoon NFL games) to $600,000 (for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” games).

Regular prime-time programming would offer a different comparison. The broadcast TV networks' 30-second unit in prime-time ranges from $80,000 to $120,000 for the major channels.

How then, would TV networks price commercials that are 60% shorter in length than 15-second commercial?

Digital media has been a big factor in pushing the six-second spot.  

And in that regard, all this might be boosting big digital video platforms -- like YouTube, from which Fox has picked up the six-second approach. It would also help TV advertisers streamline commercial production costs.

Perhaps traditional TV networks and their associated digital TV media platforms will finally get the upper hand -- as their promotion for “premium” TV-video continues on YouTube, Hulu, and other media platforms.

4 comments about "Is There Value In 6-Second TV Spots?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 1, 2017 at 10:36 a.m.

    Wayne, during the "honeymoon" stage of a new initiative, it's possible that advertisers who want to be  "on the cutting edge" will pay more than they are worth to be among the first to use 6-second commercials. But once the facts become known and people with some marketing communications sense get involved, I doubt that 6-second spots will command "premium" CPMs---except at ocassional kwirky TV programming events where everyone is trying to upstage the other. The networks must also be concerned that those advertisers who buy into 6-second spots,  may cut back on their more expensive longer ad units---hence the high CPMs for the short shorts. It wll be interesting to see how Fox and others---if they go down this road---reorganize the composition of their commercial breaks in more conventional programming---without creating a nightmare for the buyers as well as their own sales teams. Also, how do you translate Nielsen's "average commercial minute" rating into an audience estimate for a 6-seond spot?

  2. James Siciliano from Channels:360, September 1, 2017 at 12:50 p.m.

    We have much to learn yet about recall effectiveness six second units.  However, as a rule of thumb, the six second units should be used when they make tactical sense as part of a mix with thirty second units.  Tell the story with thirty's and reinforce (enhance frequency) with six second units.  It's also critical that creative and media strategy be developed jointly.  Creative content must be both relevant to its target consumer as well as impactful.  Media placement must be target rich, and ideally, work with the creative. That said, the TV environment where the creative is placed will, in all likelihood, be "premium". T he goal here would be higher communication effectiveness (achievement of communication campaign goals) and greater ROI vs. lowest CPM.   

  3. Terry Kollman from Charter Marketing Group, September 2, 2017 at 1:03 p.m.

    Ed is right.  The Broadcast and Cable TV Networks revenues will decrease as they try to
    squeeze in more 6-second commercials.  Also the competitive problems will increase.
    Six-second spots work for large brands, not for the multitude of advertisers with a message
    to communicate.

  4. Gabe Greenberg from Gabbcon, September 6, 2017 at 2:14 p.m.

    James I agree - the jury is out on the effectivness of a :06 spot. I cannot imagine 6's can stand on their own merit to build brand and sell product. It just seems ureaonable to expect that consumers and marketers can connect using the power of the medium. I understand the need for these in digital platforms where consumers attention is quite different, but I am not yet convinved they will work for linear. 

    Telling the brand story with a longer message and reinforcing it with a 6 can work - questions still remain as stated 1. Measurement, 2. Accountability, 3. Effectivreness, 4. Can TV or will TV sustain a lower cost unit? 

    If studies can prove the 6 works, I do not think you will have an issue with advertisers paying a premium but time will tell whether points 1-4 can work. 

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