Fox abandons experiment to air fewer ads

LONDON - Fox Broadcasting has decided to scrap its year-old strategy of airing fewer ads at higher prices during some TV programmes, after it failed to prevent a revenue shortfall.

The JJ Abrams-created sci-fi series 'Fringe' and Joss Whedon's 'Dollhouse' were the first programmes in which the 'Remote Free TV' approach was tested, but these will return to a normal amount of ad breaks next season, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

During the test period, 'Fringe', which airs on Sky One in the UK, ran with around 10 minutes of ads, about four to six minutes less than the typical hour long show.

Fox's experiment with airing full seasons of shows with fewer ads was designed to combat ad clutter and stop viewers from fast-forwarding through breaks.

When Fox announced the experiment at last year's upfronts, Fox chairman of entertainment Peter Liguori said he wanted Remote-Free TV to "be bold, to engage, to make audiences lean forward".

Some advertisers are understood to have paid premiums of 40% or more for the spots, but the prices were not high enough to match what Fox would have made selling more ads at standard prices.

Fox said that it still plans to use the strategy in limited instances, such as for special events or premieres.

The move comes as analysts predict that the 'upfront' ad-sales marketplace, where broadcast networks traditionally sell about three quarters of their ad inventory, could shrink 15% as slack consumer spending encourages advertisers to cut back.

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