Commentary

Analyst: Viacom Is Stuffing Ads In TV Shows

Bernstein Research media analyst Todd Juenger has a stuffy point on Viacom.

He says the cable TV network group proclaims big advanced ad gains for TV marketers. But at the same time, Viacom routinely “stuffs” more advertising into shows on its networks, such as MTV, BET, Comedy Central.

For example, some episodes of MTV’s “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” were running at 70 minutes long, instead of the normal 60 minutes. That means more TV commercials in between.

He also points to the Paramount Network, which “has some of the most heinous examples of ad stuffing.” This include frequent 38-minute episodes of “Friends” in prime time -- episodes which should normally total 30 minutes for content and ads.

Juenger points to other instances on VH1, BET and Comedy Central.

Now, to be fair, other networks groups have had their bouts with advertising “clutter” — 16 minutes or 17 minutes an hour or more of “non-content” TV time -- commercials, PSAs and network promos.

Why? We can imagine the obvious. Cable networks are seeing more slippage when it comes to traditional TV subscribers on pay TV services. Translation: lower viewership and less advertising revenue.

So how do they keep revenue high, the bottom line strong and investors happy? They sell more stuff. In TV, that means adding more commercials.

At the same time, many TV networks groups -- Fox, Turner and others -- have been experimenting with a lower number of commercials in their TV shows. They hope to gain price rises from marketers, due to more attention and focus on fewer messages. To be fair, Viacom has -- at times -- also pulled back on its TV commercial loads.

Fewer TV media-buying executives are convinced this math will work. For their part, TV network sellers would say traditional TV is still a relatively cheap medium for what marketers get, especially against ad fraud, poor viewing and transparency of digital media platforms.

Back to Viacom: Earlier this year, Brian Wieser, media analyst at Pivotal Research Group, concerning the company, wrote:

“Ad loads were actually down in April 2018 versus April 2017, with 14.4 minutes per hour in the most recent month and 14.5 minutes in the year-ago period. Of course, this is still the highest ad load in the industry, so reductions must be placed in this context.”

Stuff and context. Words media should consider — now more than ever.

4 comments about "Analyst: Viacom Is Stuffing Ads In TV Shows".
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  1. Jon Swallen from Kantar Media, September 20, 2018 at 11:50 a.m.

    The initiatives some networks are taking to reduce ad load are generally limited to select programs or commercial pods and represent a tiny proportion of their impression inventory. 

    BTW, Viacom does not have the highest prime time ad loads among major cable network groups. To see the "winner", check here:

    https://www.kantarmedia.com/us/thinking-and-resources/data-lab/kantar-media-ad-time-tracker

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 20, 2018 at 5:28 p.m.

    Jon is absolutely right in pointing out how small the "reduced clutter" initiatives  we hear so much about actually are. Still the idea of reordering the way the networks compose their commercial breaks is a very sound one---if only it is implemented properly. By leaving the total amount of commercial time intact but offering two kinds of breaks---normal clutter  at low CPMs and very limited clutter at much higher CPMs the sellers have a unique opportunity to increase their ad revenues by 25-35%---but this requires in depth planning, research and a new selling approach---things which so far have been lacking.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, September 20, 2018 at 8:15 p.m.

    Can someone please clarify something for me.

    Most acquired content is to fit the 30 or 60 minute programming schedules.   So a '60 minute' programme may be just (say) 44 minutes to allow for 16 minutes of ads, promos, idents, CSAs etc.

    So if they have a 60 minute slot, and reduce the (paid) ad content doesn't this just mean that they are stuffing the breaks full of other non-programme content.   The programme content doesn't just magically become a couple of minutes longer because they run less paid ads.

  4. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate, September 26, 2018 at 3:17 p.m.

    When NBC "supersized" their comedies on some Thursdays in the 1990s (like Friends, expanding from 21 program minutes to about 28), all they did was edit fewer scenes out of a traditionally "over-shot" show. When that episode went into off-network syndication, it was edited back down to what would have been its normal broadcast length

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