Less is more
21 Jan 2016 0 comments. tbs.pm/8495
The bigwigs from broadcast and cable TV have assembled and are discussing if live television – the stuff that appears on your screen as you click through – can fight back or even beat the streaming services of Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu and… so many others.
The fightback, according to Turner Entertainment president Kevin Reilly is fewer adverts, better adverts (US advertising can be dreadful) and no adverts.
The main idea: less advertisements. Or, for the big series premieres, no advertisements at all in the first episode. US television has always crammed advertising in – 17 minutes an hour on the networks, more in syndication – with the ads appearing between the teaser and the titles and the titles and the contents, then dropping in seemingly at random throughout the show then running before the credits, during the credits, after the credits and before the teaser for next week. It’s quite dizzying if you’re used to the European style of restrained advertising minutes appearing only in “natural breaks” – usually between the acts in a drama series.
You don’t get that with streaming services, and that’s one of the reasons, especially in the US, that people would rather stream than surf the airwaves.
Reilly is going to reduce the ad load on TNT’s three new dramas this year by more than half, which will add eight to 10 minutes of program time per hour. (Turner is pursuing a similar strategy for truTV.) Fewer, more effective ads are essential to “create a better viewing experience,” Reilly said. And if networks want to keep audiences from flocking to Netflix, reducing their “overstuffed” ad load is a solid first step.
In the UK, our commercial broadcasters have continually lobbied OfCom for more advertising time and less reliance on “natural breaks”. It’ll be interesting to see which strategy makes more money and engages more viewers as the US networks start looking in the opposite direction.