It’s easy to forget that with broadcast television, the product is us. And as audiences have fragmented, and Netflix decides it wants to stream all the things, broadcast networks have generally responded with more commercials. Ads have been stuffed anywhere they’ll fit, reruns have been sped up to cram in more ads, and all sorts of other tricks have been used. Amid all this, NBCUniversal is making a bold decision; it’s cutting ads by up to 20%.
As reported in Variety, the cable giant, owned by Comcast and which includes not just NBC but Bravo, Telemundo, and others:
…intends to cut the number of advertisements in its commercial pods during original primetime programming by 20% starting in the fourth quarter, and the amount of ad time during those primetime shows by 10%, said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships, in an interview. Overall, the company will cut the commercial loads in more than 50 original primetime shows across its portfolio of networks, which include series like NBC”s “This Is Us” or MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” or any of the sundry Kardashian family series on E!.
In other words, there will be both fewer ads and the ads NBCUniversal does sell will be longer. It’ll only apply to new episodes. Old episodes will have the old commercial times, since that’s cheaper than cutting in deleted scenes. Across an hour of TV, 10% is between two and four minutes, so any shows that have already been renewed had better pull out those scripts and see what they can add back in.
NBCUniversal has explicitly admitted this is because audiences expect fewer ads. Either they stream shows from ad-free services or they get caught up on Hulu, which, even with the ad-supported tier, only features about ninety seconds to two minutes worth of ads between breaks, if that. If audiences are paying for cable, they’re probably wondering why they’re watching a version of a show broken up with ads when they can just stream it. The question is whether audiences will notice, and whether other networks will follow suit. But in the meantime, hey, slightly more Good Place!