Working on giving everyone what they want, OTT platforms have been offering fewer—or zero—ads to consumers and modern targeting options for brands. So far, everyone’s been winning—except for the TV networks losing out on viewers.
But NBCUniversal has a plan to plug the leaks. By the end of this fiscal year, the network, which owns and operates NBC, Telemundo, E! and numerous other channels, will cut the number of primetime hour ad slots by 20 percent and primetime ad time by 10 percent.
“There are more and more consumers, whether it’s from Hulu or the Netflixes or Amazons of the world, who are liberated via technology,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships for NBCUniversal, to Variety. “TV networks would be crazy to believe that anything other than commercial overhaul was anything other than inevitable.”
Reducing ad clutter is just the tip of the iceberg for NBCUniversal’s modernization efforts. The network has also introduced a product it calls a “prime pod,” a 60-second ad break available to a maximum of two sponsors, offering advertisers the chance to air different ads that better align with the show’s mood and themes. Prioritizing scalability, Yaccarino promises that “prime pod” themes will be powered by artificial intelligence.
Other ad products NBCUniversal hopes to offer soon include displaying real-time commentary from advertisers, blurring the line between TV ad and Twitter account, and using its AI theme-detecting platform to play a brand’s ads during relevant sections of the programming itself.
These new ad products will focus on driving consumer recall, engagement and purchase conversion. “These are performance metrics that matter,” Yaccarino said, claiming many viewability metrics currently used by the industry don’t accurately reflect an ad’s effectiveness. “This is a whole sales effort to adopt a new vocabulary and conversation.”
Despite NBCUniversal’s efforts to push television toward a quality-over-quantity mindset for ads, the industry has generally been pushing in the opposite direction. According to Variety, TV networks have added more than 400,000 new ad slots over the past five years, and the average length of ad breaks rose by 3.9 percent in January alone.