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The End of Commercial Clutter on Radio?


If there’s any medium more cluttered with commercials than radio, that medium would be TV.

Or is it?

Some signs suggest that the powers-that-be in TV-land sense a turning point. Witness these words from Kevin Reilly, president of the TBS and TNT cable nets last week at the TCA winter press tour:

We have overstuffed the bird. We need to create a better viewing experience.

A “better viewing experience”? How about a “better listening experience,” radio broadcasters?How about a better listening experience, radio broadcasters? Click To Tweet

Reilly, who is also Chief Creative Officer of Turner Entertainment, was referring to heavy commercial loads, which, he said, not only make it less enjoyable for viewers to watch TV but also diminish the value of the spots that advertisers are buying. Talks are underway, Reilly told journalists, to reduce commercial loads by more than half in three new drama series for TNT, which will give audience members more of what they actually tune in for — program content.

At CES last week Turner execs discussed another form at decluttering:

The idea is to reconfigure commercial pods with fewer, longer spots to be produced in the vein of branded entertainment or native advertising. The focus would be on spots that last two or three minutes each — for instance, a trailer-style commercial for an upcoming movie — rather than traditional commercials that run 15 or 30 seconds apiece. So a pod could be composed of one three-minute spot instead of crammed with six :30s or a dozen :15s.

TBS is promoting one new sitcom with a 25-hour, commercial-free debut of all 10 episodes of the first season, and the commercial-free aspect of the stunt is getting as much play as the new series itself.

Meanwhile, starting this fall, Turner’s truTV will significantly reduce ad loads from 18 or so minutes per hour of non-program content to a mere 10 or so minutes per hour.

And it’s not just Turner. Check out what’s happening at Fox:

Fox Broadcasting…has been scheduling fewer commercials during episodes of…its hit drama “Empire.” To make that possible, Fox has signed brands like Lincoln and Pepsi to sponsorship deals that involve product integration, events and other types of pitches that are less interruptive or invasive.

Why is all this happening now? Because of declines in cable and TV viewership fueled partially by DVR’s and the efforts of these networks to make their content available on digital platforms, but also sparked by the audience’s clear desire to route around commercial clutter.

Sound familiar, radio?

So it’s not only that minutes – hours – of commercials are being slashed. It’s also that networks are working with advertisers to redefine the form in which those ad dollars are spent. Advertising dollars are integrated into content rather than dumped into interruptive content speed bumps. As Media Village writes, “sponsorship deals that involve product integration, events and other types of pitches that are less interruptive or invasive.”

The writing is on the wall, it seems to me. Radio broadcasters are going to have to become far more creative with regard to how clients can spend their dollars such that audiences get what they come to their favorite radio stations for in the first place:


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