Fewer TV Ads Translates Into Smaller Viewer Growth

Lower advertising loads on TV programming yields only small improvements in watching individual TV commercials, according to a recent report.

When programmers reduced ad loads, such as cutting the number of ads by 50% or more, viewer engagement saw single-digit growth — just 7%, according to research from Comcast’s Freewheel, its video management platform.

It also found a 30% reduction in show's commercials would only improve viewing by 5%. “The marginal increases in engagement almost never compensated for the massive reduction in inventory,” the authors report.

A number of TV network/media companies — such as NBC and 21st Century Fox — recently announced major plans to reduce commercial inventory on their networks. Other network groups, such as Turner and Viacom, have already taken similar steps.

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The goal, according to executives, is that lowering advertising clutter would lead to more “engagement” viewing TV spots.

When it comes to TV commercials on digital video advertising, the results lessen. The report says viewers aren’t as “sensitive” because digital video ad loads are already at a reasonable level. “Publishers need to look beyond just a simple reduction in ads to more nuanced choreography strategies.”

Freewheel says broadcast programming on digital platforms averages 8 minutes/14 seconds per hour, with cable programming on digital platforms at 8 minutes/39 seconds.

This is still lower than on linear TV, where broadcast network programming is at 11 minutes/33 seconds and cable at 13 minutes/27 seconds.

The FreeWheel test results came from 20 “distinct engagements” — 100 unique ad experiences — across 13 premium video programmers from the third quarter 2013 to the fourth quarter 2017.

3 comments about "Fewer TV Ads Translates Into Smaller Viewer Growth".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 11, 2018 at 1:19 p.m.

    The broadcast TV networks' idea about offering a limited number of very short commercial breaks is not a ploy to increase ratings----very unlikely. Rather, it's a plan to get advertisers who opt for the very short breaks to pay 50% or higher CPMs for these placements and, thereby, increase the sellers' overall ad dollar yield. While it is very true that ad recall and related metrics should be very much improved for ads appearing in such breaks, the networks do not appear to have sold in this concept, with its justifiable higher CPMs properly----not to the buyers but to the brands in planning their TV buys.If that's proves to be the case, its back to Square One on this very significant concept and time to try a new approach well in advance for next year's upront. It would be a shame if the idea gets lost in the politics of who speaks to whom, about what and when.

  2. pj bednarski from MediaPost.com, June 11, 2018 at 2:44 p.m.

    What would have been a good response? It seems that 7% more is good out of the gate. What did they think? 50% 25% ?. That's ridiculous unless the programming quaility was also improved by a similar amount. If it's the same old same old, no wonder it's not a higher number. The proposition the networks give viewers for many of its show is: Will you watch this program even if you don't like it much if we don't interrupt it too many times for commercials? 

  3. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, June 12, 2018 at 5:06 p.m.

    This is one of those cases where we need to see muchmore detail on methodology. Ed's position, per CPMs above, seems a more logical interpretation than increased program viewing. Getting new faces in front of the screen for programming is, to my thinking, more based on show quality...which is a whole different game than CPMs or retaining viewers through a spot pod.  I can't imagine the word-of-mouth, e.g., "Mary, you've gotta watch program X...they've got fewer commercials."

    Sidebar:  Cable nets have the biggest clutter problem and data reported here seems to substantiate that.

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