Issue: To gain viewers in a chaotic market, ABC will be omitting the first commercial break on some new shows
Commentary by: David Vinjamuri
The Los Angeles Times reports that ABC is reducing the number of commercials to be aired on the premier of new fall shows:
The network is eliminating the first commercial break — which typically occurs about eight minutes into an episode for comedies — from new prime-time series, including “Cougar Town,” “Modern Family” and “The Middle.”
The strategy has a precedent – FOX last year dramatically reduced commercial interruptions on prime-time series “Fringe” and “Dollhouse” and sold each episode to a single sponsor.Â This advertising blog commented on this experiment, which we found promising.Â The strategy was discontinued by FOX as the economy faltered and advertisers willing to sponsor an entire hour-long episode vanished.
ABC’s experiment is less dramatic but equally important.Â Some shows will run for as long as twenty-minutes uninterrupted – a lifetime by network television standards.Â If viewer retention improves, mainstream networks may finally begin to learn one of the most obvious lessons of the Internet era: less is more.
An hour-long network television show averages 18 minutes of commercials, often in 2 minute or longer blocks.Â If networks were to move to 6 ninety-second blocks (totaling 9 minutes) and thus cut commercial interruptions in half, they might dramatically increase the viewership of those commercials.Â FOX did a good job of advertising the short length of its commercial breaks on Fringe and Dollhouse last year.
In the 1987 movie “Wall Street” Michael Douglas playing Gordon Gekko famously said “Greed is good.Â Greed works.”Â Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked well for commercial advertising.Â Less would be more.