NBC to Cut Ads in Pods 20%, Prime-Time Ad Load to Drop 10%


NEW YORK – NBC plans to cut the number of ads in commercial pods by 20 percent and primetime ad time by 10 percent in more than 50 prime-time shows, starting in fourth-quarter 2018.

Networks such as USA, E!, and Bravo will also see their ad loads decrease. NBC will outline all the details at this year’s upfront.

NBCUniversal says it will also launch new ad products, one of which is a 60-second format called “Prime Pod” that will shorten the typical 2:30 commercial pod into a one-minute break, putting extra emphasis on participating advertisers.

NBCU also is planning an interactive picture-in-picture product and social ad products.

Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, says the changes are about making “the experience better for viewers. We promised some big swings last fall to move our industry forward, and this is the first one."

NBC has reduced ad loads before, and it’s planned to reduce the number of commercials in “Saturday Night Live” by 30 percent. In the aggregate, TV commercial loads increased to 11 minutes per hour in January 2018, up from 10.5 in January 2017, per Pivotal Research Group data. 

Insiders say this latest move is part of broadcasters’ efforts to drive ad sales amid a fragmented media environment. Last year, Fox piloted a program that featured six-second ads during NFL games and some other programming, borrowing a format that was popular on social media platforms like Vine and Instagram.

Kevin O’Reilly, chief strategy officer for TVSquared, told Marketing Dive that with the reduced number of ad spots, “It will be more important than ever for advertisers and networks to work together to make in-flight changes and optimize ads." 

TV advertising suffered big declines in 2017, when ad sales fell 7.8 percent to $61.8 billion per Magna Global Data – the biggest decline (outside of a recession) in at least the past 20 years. And live TV viewership has slipped during recent years as networks struggle to compete with streaming services.