NEW YORK: NBCUniversal is rethinking its approach to prime-time television advertising and will cut the number of commercials by 20% and advertising time by 10%, it has announced, while at the same time aligning ads and content more intelligently.

The decision has been driven by the changing expectations of viewers as more of them subscribe to ad-free streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“TV networks would be crazy to believe that anything other than commercial overhaul was anything other than inevitable,” said Linda Yaccarino, chairman of advertising and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, in remarks reported by Variety.

“The industry knows that television is already the most effective advertising medium there is, but we need to make the experience better for viewers,” she added.

“We’re reimagining the advertising experience for consumers, marketers, and the entire industry.”

That might seem a bold claim for showing slightly fewer ads and making some of them longer. Part of the rethink involves the introduction of a new 60-second commercial pod in the first or last break of a show that will be dedicated to up to two advertisers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But this “prime pod” will make use of artificial intelligence to look through the scripts of shows and match advertising to the content of the show. The intention, said NBCUniversal, is to create a “stronger impact with viewers”.

“We don’t program our pods the way we program our networks,” said Yaccarino. “This is a wholesale effort to stop doing that and start programming our pods in a way that marries advertisers’ creative with our originals.”

The network is generally no better or worse than most of its US counterparts in the matter of ad load. Recent research from Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research indicated that it averaged 11.1 minutes per hour in January, putting it in the middle of the pack. Viacom, in contrast, averaged 14.6 minutes of advertising per hour.

Sourced from Variety, Wall Street Journal, Ad Age; additional content by WARC staff