Analyst Finds Too Many Ads in His Cable Stocking

Analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein didn’t like what he saw while watching TV over the holidays.

What he saw were cable networks belonging to Viacom, AMC Networks and Discovery Communications whose shows were so overstuffed with ads that they couldn’t be contained in either 30-minute or 60-minute intervals.

“The financial significance is twofold: 1) whatever ad revenue these companies report in the quarter is being propped up; and 2) comps are tougher next year,” Juenger said in a report Tuesday.

He also noticed that MTV failed to air a live New Year’s special (it didn't air one a year ago, either). Juenger called the programming decision—and the lack of reaction to it—a sign that MTV is no longer relevant to youth culture.

Juenger noted that Viacom’s new management, like its old management, appears to be comfortable jamming more commercials into its programming to offset falling ratings, even while promising to reduce ad loads.

Viacom’s biggest networks, MTV, Comedy Central and BET were also culprits, according to Juenger. He saw 33-minute episodes of Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, 35-minute episodes of MTV’s Ridiculousness and 33-minute reruns of Martin on BET.

”Comedy Central has been a habitual offender. In fact, we can’t remember the last time we saw an episode of South Park scheduled to last its regular 30 minutes,” Juenger said. “It has become so bad, we fully expect Trey Parker and Matt Stone to write an episode of South Park that parodies how many advertisements Comedy Central jams into South Park.”

On AMC, episodes of Breaking Bad were 64 minutes long during a holiday marathon, making watching them on Netflix much more enjoyable by comparison, Juenger noted. A Walking Dead marathon was worse, with episodes lasting between 65 and 70 minutes each.

Discovery’s Science Channel ran 62-minute episodes of Mythbusters all day on Dec. 27.

Juenger seemed surprised by Discovery’s stuffing, given that the company said fourth-quarter ad sales were strong. But he noted that the stuffing did not carry into the New Year.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.