NBC says it will cut the number of ads it runs in primetime by 10%, ADWEEK reports that the change will begin at the start of the fall season.
Clutter and long commercial breaks have long been a problem, for advertisers whose messages get lost in the clutter and for the networks, who lose viewers during long commercial breaks that can, at times, last three minutes or more.
So how will NBC run fewer ads without losing money? One answer might be..charge more for each spot. But that's not realistic.
Instead, ADWEEK says NBC will unveil some new formats in which ads can run. One or two of them sound vaguely familiar, just under different names.
One they're calling a "show within a show." An example they give envisions a brief segment in "The Voice" where a previous winner is featured, showing what they've been doing since winning. I've seen segments like that on the old weight-loss contest "The Biggest Loser." I remember watching a segment back then, and once I realized it was a paid promotional segment I was annoyed, feeling I'd been conned into watching a commercial. There was nothing to indicate it was a paid spot.
Another ad platform will be a primetime bridge. This would be a spot, of varying lengths but probably longer than the traditional :30, that will run between two programs. It's like going back a couple of years to traditional commercial breaks between shows, except the bridge ad will be for only one advertiser.
Then there's the scripted commercial launch. This format will move from a moment in the show to a commercial, but possibly in a seamless way so the viewer will think he's still watching the show. A character on a show might, for example, sit down and take a cup of Maxwell House coffee, which will then lead into an ad for Maxwell House. Sounds a little like "product placement."
This one sounds a little bizarre -- interactive picture-in-picture. It's described as a split-screen format where part of the split screen will show a character from the program interacting with the product being advertised. Hmmm. We'll see.
Another is a social media concept where social comments from fans will be woven into ads that air during the show. We've seen hints of that in past seasons of "The Voice."
And we've already seen some examples of super-short ads -- five seconds -- that run between segments of sports events. In the Olympics, we saw instances when the narrator would say, "Coming up next, couples figure skating." And there'd be a quick ad that is gone before you can reach for your remote or your DVR control.
The networks and advertisers are challenged with loss of viewership for ads, so it's understandable that they're trying new ways to keep us engaged or numb us into sitting through ads. Let's see how these ideas work after we've seen them a few times, once we're on to the attempt to keep us watching the ads.