NBC is thinking the unthinkable. According to US sources, the
network behind Seinfeld and ER is thinking of airing fewer - but longer
- commercial breaks in a bid to retain viewers.
The network feels that flow and ratings might be improved if it
restructured some programming to contain fewer ad breaks - so long as
those remaining were significantly longer. That’s a controversial view,
which bucks conventional wisdom: broadcasters on both sides of the pond
have long held that extended breaks reduce the efficacy of the
individual ads, and can put viewers off.
Take Richard Eyre, the chief executive of ITV. After last month’s TV 98
conference in Barcelona - at which advertisers pressed ITV to join a
campaign for more minutage on terrestrial TV - Eyre argued that
increasing advertising airtime to nine minutes an hour would lead to
clutter. And reduced editorial, he added, would mean reduced audience
But minutage in the US - which is self-regulated - does look set to
Audience figures have fallen across the major broadcast networks, but
most have added significant commercial time. In the first ten weeks of
the current TV season, according to SFM Media Corp, ABC was up 11.8 per
cent in prime-time commercial volume, NBC was up 6.1 per cent and CBS
4.8 per cent year on year. Only Fox was down.
Paul Woolmington, Young & Rubicam’s president of media operations
worldwide, says: ’Longer ad breaks could hamper interest in advertising.
Being one of two ads in a short break is more interesting than being one
Woolmington suspects NBC is only toying with the idea. ’It’s a healthy
dialogue,’ he says. ’US networks are very good at promoting what’s to
come, leaving the viewer with cliffhangers.’ It seems agencies are yet
to be convinced that NBC’s ’less is more’ solution can keep advertisers