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TV Networks Cutting Back On Commercials (bloomberg.com) 242

An anonymous reader writes: Cable providers aren't the only ones feeling pressure from cord cutters. The TV networks themselves are losing viewers the same way. A lot of those viewers are going to Netflix and other streaming services, which are often ad-free, or have ad-free options. Now, in an effort to win back that audience (and hang on to the ones who are still around), networks are beginning to cut back on commercial time during their shows. "Time Warner's truTV will cut its ad load in half for prime-time original shows starting late next year, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said last week on an earnings call. Viacom has recently slashed commercial minutes at its networks, which include Comedy Central and MTV. Earlier this month, Fox said it will offer viewers of its shows on Hulu the option to watch a 30-second interactive ad instead of a typical 2 1/2-minute commercial break. Fox says the shorter ads, which require viewers to engage with them online, are more effective because they guarantee the audience's full attention."
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TV Networks Cutting Back On Commercials

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  • ...and I predict (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @01:43PM (#50909405)

    up next: an app for your phone that interacts with all the crap they try to make you watch before they show you any content, then beeps to let you know the actual content is starting.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not a bad idea. I was going to say that the only thing an interactive ad guarantees is me randomly clicking feedback stuff. 'Full attention'. Good luck with that. Advertisers have earned the wrath of pretty much everyone now by being forceful and greedy. Basically they act like we owe them something and they're wrong.

      They need to be meek and humble for about a decade to start to get some level of trust back--maybe.

      • by Flavianoep ( 1404029 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:35PM (#50909801)

        Advertisers have earned the wrath of pretty much everyone now by being forceful and greedy. Basically they act like we owe them something and they're wrong.

        That's because we are watching a show that it is them that have paid for.

        • by suutar ( 1860506 )

          yes, but all they have actually bought is an opportunity to be exposed to eyeballs, not a guarantee.

        • Well, then aren't they stupid for *BROADCASTING IT*!!!
          • No, they are not, what would be the point of paying to be seen if it was in a place that no-one saw? Quite the contrary, the more potencial viewers, the more broadcasters can charge advertisers for spot length and frequency.
            • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
              "Potential" being the key word - we're not obligated to watch commercials, despite what Jamie Kellner, former chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting, once said (that skipping commercials is theft, and viewerss have a "contract" with broadcasters to watch the commercials). I think there's a reason for the "former" part in that sentence.
      • The interaction doesn't have to be mandatory. There's been some talk here of an app to accompany ads on public television. The interaction can be in the form of you proving that you have watched the airing of a particular ad (scanning an on screen QR code or some such), in return for a chance to win a crappy prize or getting a discount on the advertised product.
    • The networks can only get away with double dipping while there's no real competition. They said "Hey, look! We can charge those suck... er... our valued customers boatloads of money (because we don't offer reasonable a la carte services) AND show them more and more advertisements! Win-win!" That resulted in this:

      http://www.latimes.com/enterta... [latimes.com]

      Oops. How about that? Shitting on your customers mean they go elsewhere if there's any chance. No way I'm ever subscribing to cable or any ad-laden service ag

    • Re:...and I predict (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:27PM (#50909739)

      up next: an app for your phone that interacts with all the crap they try to make you watch before they show you any content, then beeps to let you know the actual content is starting.

      I suspect this is truth, but it doesn't make sense. Google found me this article, showing cost of prime time commercial slots for shows. The #1 show in that list was the Big Bang Theory, raking in $6.5M per episode in commercial spots with a viewership in 2014 of almost 20M people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Bang_Theory). So to generate equivalent revenue, without the bullshit, a viewer could pay just $.33 to watch the episode commercial free, and they'd win. This is for the most popular show on TV, most make do with less than 1/4 of that. For just $8 you could in theory own a 24 episode season, they'd make bank and you'd get your favorite show. No bullshit required!

      Instead IF they give you that option it's usually $2 per episode, and/or you have to use their lousy site and be subjected to whatever arbitrary rules they want to impose.

      • Re:...and I predict (Score:5, Informative)

        by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @04:39PM (#50910713)

        ...or you could just do what I do.. throw up an antenna, set up mythtv on an old PC, then legally record and watch Big Bang and much other good stuff without ever paying a cent or watching a commercial, since mythtv also has automatic commmercial detection/skipping so you dont even need to press fast forward on your remote.
        mythtv is especially great If you travel a lot, since you can also set it up as a server then stream your own live tv, recorded shows, and any ripped media to your android phone app or any browser no matter where you are.

    • Earlier this month, Fox said it will offer viewers of its shows on Hulu the option to watch a 30-second interactive ad instead of a typical 2 1/2-minute commercial break.

      Ads that are better at interrupting the flow of attention an audience, that's exactly what we wanted.

      Fox says the shorter ads, which require viewers to engage with them online, are more effective because they guarantee the audience's full attention.

      This Fox executive is a bit late. They may have guaranteed the audience's full attention, at the very beginning, but now they've just trained the audience to mindlessly click through them, or go else where for their show. That's the problem when you're just copying someone else's idea. It's hardly novel or effective by the time you do the same yourself.

      And besides who watches Hulu anymore? I used to love Hul

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With all the options available to me, it simply isn't worth it anymore. These cable/tv providers were MORE than happy to screw us for every dime they could when there was no viable option. Now that there is, they are scrambling to get viewers back.

    Sorry, but with games, movies, music, and other entertainment options out there, along with Netflix/Amazon video, it's simply not worth it to me to pay a premium.

    For those of you swashbuckling types, I suggest an Ubuntu/Sonarr/Couch Potato/Transmission setup.

  • WRONG! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @01:48PM (#50909433)

    The networks always cut back on commercials leading into Presidential election years. TV and Radio both reduce commercials and jack up rates because they must offer equal quality time spots to all candidates. As a result, they have to clear out the riff-raff of cheap spots usually filled with "As Seen on TV" and "get rich quick" products in order to have the spots necessary to fulfill both their bread and butter big hitter brands and political ads.

    We could eliminate about 75% of the marketing and advertising industry at the bottom of the ocean, and society would benefit substantially, a roughly analogous proportion as the legal profession. No surprise, both are exceptionally well paid professions, with no guarantee of results, which don't require any proof of skill (passing the bar once in life is neither required, nor a particularly notable achievement).

  • If only the scifi err syfy channel still had shows after the ads end.

    Viacom may need to work on their negotiation skills it's pretty hard to get dropped and replaced by a cable company.

    Suddenlink (one of the two cable companies here in town) dropped viacom's network after some rather ridiculous rate hikes.

    http://www.tvonmyside.com/ [tvonmyside.com]

    • Re:Shows may vary. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @01:54PM (#50909491)

      I'd be happy with ads on SyFy if they just hunted down and executed the moron executive that thinks horror, paranormal, CSI and low budget "reality" tv ghost hunts are somehow even related to actual Sci Fi.

      • Re:Shows may vary. (Score:5, Informative)

        by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:44PM (#50909857) Homepage
        Yeah, all that stuff should be over on the History Channel where it belongs. :)

        Every channel has lost its original focus. The one I really hate is HGTV for dropping gardening and becoming the real estate channel.
      • by SuperRenaissanceMan ( 1027668 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:56PM (#50909941)
        I think most of the tech showed in CSI counts as sci-fi.
  • I predict that we will begin to see (more?) product placements in TV shows. It's an easy way to defeat cord-cutters and DVR'ers. Hey, they've been doing that in movies for decades.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      I predict that we will begin to see (more?) product placements in TV shows. It's an easy way to defeat cord-cutters and DVR'ers. Hey, they've been doing that in movies for decades.

      Already happening. I caught a bit of a scripted show my wife was watching the other day. Two people had gone out to lunch or something and got in an argument, and since one had gotten a ride with the other, instead of riding back said something to the effect of "I'll just get an Uber". Only a year or two ago they would have just said "I'll take a taxi."

      • by neminem ( 561346 )

        I'm watching Master of None right now - it surprised me that they've so far mentioned Yelp once and Uber a couple times, but I don't think it was product placement; they're just going for actually feeling like real life, so if *we* would talk about yelping or ubering, why shouldn't characters of a similar demographic in a show also?

      • I happened to saw something similar on an episode of "Master of none" yesterday. It wasn't just an offhand remark about Uber either, the guy got out his phone and said something to the effect of "I'll just get an Uber, there's an Uber black 15 minutes away or we can get an Uber X", or some such. At least they didn't stop to explain the different services as well... but it was still jarring.
    • The doesn't bother me if they don't take parts of the TV show or movie to actively advertise the products.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      Hawaii Five O showed a different feature of their car (Ford?) in every episode.
      • In that vein, the "American Pickers" guys drive a Ford van in the show, which sometimes includes Ford commercials featuring the Picker guys.

      • by maird ( 699535 )

        What's that current ad that starts with the question: "Constipated?" I can't wait until some show has as a placement the product that's for. Plus, the ad I'm thinking of shows a handful of features it has so if it became the Hawaii Five O season laxative some year they could show a different feature in different episodes just like they do with the cars. Same goes for a show that has a season ED medicine some year. That would be great if they also showed the side-effects as well and there was the character w

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      I predict that we will begin to see (more?) product placements in TV shows. It's an easy way to defeat cord-cutters and DVR'ers. Hey, they've been doing that in movies for decades.

      Exactly, product placements are becoming more common (and more blatant), so cutting down on commercials means more time for more product placements.

      And now they can do dynamic product placements, no need for a static can of Pepsi on the show, they can show Pepsi to some audiences, and Coke to others:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/entert... [bbc.com]

      • For a little satire of this, see the wonderful film "Repo Man." All of the products in the show are white label. My favorite example is when Emilio Estevez opens up and then eats from a white can labelled "Food."

  • by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @01:55PM (#50909503)

    The networks need to expect to lose about 20-35% of ad revenue, and work their business model around it. Making the ads "higher value" by being more targeted and invasive-- but shorter-- indicates a failure to understand the problem. TV Advertisements now are effectively worthless. While they originally banked on having an impact on 2-5% of viewers, the quantity and pervasiveness of advertising today has completely marginalized its effectiveness and it is down to *maybe* 1-2%.

    If they want viewers to be "engaged" with the advertising, it cannot compete with what the viewer actually wants to see. They have maybe 4 minutes of advertisements they can cram in per hour before crossing this threshold. They can play games with mingling product placement and advertisements to increase value, but really that is it.

    Good riddance.

  • I discovered long time ago that I just don't get a cut on the ads I am forced to view in the form of $ paid.
    Every time, a person shows up on my door asking me to sign up for some dish or whatever service, I ask that question what my cut on it would be.
    Some laugh but all disappear and don't come back.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think that one of the primary reasons that people are rejecting advertising is that the ads are invasive.

    To your average consumer, ads are fine. More than fine, actually, necessary to promote products some people would be otherwise unaware of. Just not INVASIVE ads. Forcing users to engage an ad will have the opposite effect.

    EVERY grocery store and various other types of stores I go to have ads as you go in. Easily ignored if unwanted, but helpful if desired. Advertisers have been overloading people

    • When I *do* watch TV, the mute button on my controller gets a Olympic-style workout.. *some* commercials I can tolerate, but others, such as the endless fucking drug commercials with the cutesy-tootsy names, and the fast-talking announcer telling you all the side-effects you can expect, then telling you to "ask *your* doctor if XXXX is right for *you*.... Those get the mute within the first second.. You wonder with all the serious side-effects reported on these stupid drugs why *anybody* in their right mind

  • Even if TV was commercial free there isn't anything worth watching. It's all laugh tracks and fake "reality".
    • I'm not sure what you're watching. I find that there are now more quality dramas available then ever. AMC's recent productions of excellent shows, followed by CW, FX, and other networks, and Netflix's continuous creation of very good shows and original movies gives me more to watch then I have time for. I agree that the partially scripted "reality" shows and weak network comedies do mostly suck. Brooklyn 99 is funny as hell, though.
  • by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:01PM (#50909547)

    Has Fox forgotten that vegging out or having background noise while doing other stuff is most of the point of watching TV. Nothing will tick someone off more than have to fumble around and click to proceed every few minutes.

  • We all know they gave up on music years ago, I thought all they ran now was commercials for crap I don't want to buy. I can't tell the difference between their awful reality show and infomercials.
  • by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:06PM (#50909587)

    To me (and many other folks), the biggest single problem with commercials is that they are too loud. I zip past commercials if I'm running a time-shifted version on the DVR, but if not, I mute most of them and always mute the loud ones. In fact, there's no better way to make me ignore a commercial than for it to be too loud. So, a simple step to making commercials more tolerable would be to reduce their volume. (Oh, and while we're at it, can we ban those creepy Allstate commercials that have the deep disembodied spokesman's voice apparently emanating from normal people?)

    I assume there are technological solutions to the volume problem, but none seem to come built-in to TVs and they don't seem to be readily available as some sort of add-on box. Perhaps there's some free software somewhere to do this just like there's free DVR software, but some of us don't want to go that far.

    Decades ago, some Magnavox TVs featured something called "Smart Sound" for this, but evidently that either didn't really work or somehow otherwise never caught on. Until it does, the broadcasters and advertisers might start solving this problem for everyone on their end.

    • I'd be cool with commercials being way higher in volume, if DVR manufacturers are prohibited owning any copyrighted video content. I figure "sound level" would be a pretty easy trigger for commercial skip algorithms, and if the DVR makers weren't in league with the people putting out the commercials in the first place, the'd compete on who has the best commercial skipping.

      The more prominent ads are, the easer it should be for machine filtering to remove them from your experience.

  • I saw an interactive ad before and it was effective. I haven't been to any of the TV network sites to watch programming since. I was already annoyed by many of the networks that refused to let the viewer pause commercials, which meant that I couldn't pause the programming at "natural" breaks. Then they had the audacity to expect me to get off my ass when I was perfectly willing to sit through the commercials. Good grief. If they insist upon being that controlling, then it's better to go elsewhere for e

  • Of course now when you got the the movie theater, you get to see commercials too, and it's not just those movie commercials normally called trailers. We see car, jewelry, and bank commercials, too.

    Oh joy, really draws me to the theater.

    • Depends on your theatre of choice maybe? We go to "iPic" and pay a price-premium for movie tickets (50-100% above normal rates). Order Food, Coffee, Alcohol, delivered right to your super-sized-enterprise-grade-lazy-boy-chair - and only about ~50 seats in the theatre. At the iPic they play the normal trailers, and a pre-show about some of their drinks or highlight a seasonal dish. Oh yeah, and Free popcorn.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      I now make it a point to get to the theater late.
    • Sooooo agree with your hatred of this practice. They really need to kill those commercials at the movie theater. Going to the movies is supposed to be a different experience than being at home. Not to mention we sure pay enough for tickets nowadays that adding in commercials is a bit of an insult. Mentioning the prices of refreshments is endlessly infamous, so I won't even go there. ;-)

      • But how else are you going to get that genuine "shoes stick to the floor because of dried spilled soft drinks" experience?

        Or the "I wish I could rewind it because the assh*le two seats over feels they have to explain every scene really loud"?

        And let's not forget that special bonus features - not being able to go to the washroom when YOU want, and the excitement of using a strange toilet.

  • Fox says the shorter ads, which require viewers to engage with them online, are more effective because they guarantee the audience's full attention."

    It always amazes me how marketeers actually think people like to view and "participate" in advertisements.

    In this case, "full attention" means that the ad "watcher" is randomly pressing parts of the screen to make the ad progress and go away. "Full attention" may well mean that the viewer is saying to herself, "I'll never buy anything from this company because their ads re so friggin' annoying..."

  • "Time Warner's truTV will cut its ad load in half for prime-time original shows starting late next year"

    Wait, so you're gonna react to a problem a year from now?!

    I know this is probably driven in part by existing contracts, and while the current state of advertising is definitely a mess, I think it's more a symptom of an underlying problem. And that problem is that in almost every respect, traditional TV broadcasters have been way too slow to keep up. Almost without exception they had to be dragged into the

    • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

      Wait, so you're gonna react to a problem a year from now?!

      "Late next year" is probably defined as "the start of next TV season" (i.e. September-October) most likely because if there are less commercials, then run times need to be increased, and it's a bit of a pain in the ass to do that to a scripted show in mid season. The real question is reruns: how are you going to take 22 minutes of content and stretch it to 24-25 minutes because you only have 5-6 minutes of ads anymore.

      • In generally I think you'd be right, but the specific channel they're considering is truTV - a channel that has very little scripted (in the traditional sense) content. Their big focus is on "reality" TV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TruTV), and next to sports programming, reality shows would be the easiest to lengthen - much of the editing process is whittling down hours and hours of footage into the 22 or 44 minutes of available time.

        In other words, Turner is going to just barely dip their toes into the

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        plus, from what I understand (based on other postings in this thread) they've already sold the ad time for the next year, so they're stuck with it.

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @02:21PM (#50909693)

    Ads are not the only problem with TV. The programming has become pretty ridiculous. Reality TV, especially, is extremely stupid. The only reality TV I used to watch were cooking shows, but I think by now everyone understands that they are not "real", that even the time clocks and whatnot are all BS. A friend, who used to like to watch ghost-hunter shows and Finding Bigfoot, complained last weekend, "They never find any ghosts. They never find Bigfoot. God! I've been wasting my time!" So, bad programming combined with too many commercials is just unbearable. I recently got rid of digital cable and went to bare-bones service. I don't miss it at all, and I'm saving $75 a month.

  • The problem is the cable companies, not the TV networks. I don't have a problem with TV commercials. I'm a cable cutter, and you aren't going to get me to sign back up because there are fewer ads. We need more local/regional competition in cable and internet providers to bring some decent service back.

  • Problem with that is the shows themselves are built to x amount of minutes. Seems to me they really can't cut them unless the shows themselves are produced a bit longer. Last I heard, the average sitcom was actually 22 minutes in length.

  • Now if network TV would kill those annoying animated people that pop up and cross their arms to let you know a new episode of their show is this Thursday at 8!

    Have you ever had that crap block out something with subtitles? Majorly annoying!

  • Dear networks.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday November 11, 2015 @03:35PM (#50910189) Homepage

    Too little too late. You guys jammed them in so much and so hard, plus using heavy compression so they are louder. I'm done. I record with a DVR that auto REMOVES commercials.

    Suck it, I wont be watching your commercials anymore.

  • Based on the trend in recent years of most commercials being ads for other shows, I'm guessing this is just a reflection of the fact that they literally can't sell as many ad slots as they used to. They might as well pretend they're doing this for some reason other than desperation.

    "I meant to do that. Yeah, that's the ticket."

  • They should have thought of the potential backlash when they were innundating folks with commercials in the first place.

    I quit watching television because of my hatred for advertising. It was reaching the point on some networks where, towards the end of a show, it seemed there was more air time for ads than the show itself. It was infuriating and I simply gave up.

    Turned in all my hardware and dropped cable TV completely from my life. I haven't missed it.

    I don't see myself returning to pay television simp

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