NBC Universal Cutting TV Commercials 20%

In an era of ad-free subscription streaming video, NBC Universal Feb. 28 announced it would air 20% fewer commercials during original primetime programing – decreasing overall ad-time by 10% this fall.

The company is launching/marketing a new 60 second contextually-programmed “prime pod” in the first or last break of a show to two advertisers for stronger impact with viewers.

“Sometimes, a little bit less means a whole lot more,” Linda Yaccarino, chairman, advertising and client partnerships, NBC Universal, said in a statement. “We need to make the [TV] experience better for viewers.”

NBC isn’t alone. Turner and Viacom are experimenting with fewer ads across all of its networks.

Over the past five years, the video viewing environment has become more cluttered with more than 400,000 ads, according to Nielsen. As consumer behavior has shifted and viewers have migrated to other platforms, mass TV advertising effectiveness has waned.

As a result, NBC Universal is making reductions in more than 50 Primetime original shows across its entire portfolio. It will also unveil a suite of new ad products, including “interactive picture in picture,” and “social commercials,” and “social first pods.”

The new ad formats were experimented with during NBC’s telecast of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

NBC contends contextually targeted ads fuel greater consumer conversion and will use a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based content targeting product that comb through scripts and data sources to make every ad that much more relevant to its audience.

“In TV now, what’s largely done is we don’t program our pods the way we program our networks,” Yaccarino told AdAge.com. “This is a wholesale effort to stop doing that and start programming our pods in a way that marry advertisers creative with our originals.”