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Commercial Loads Grow Slower at Cable Networks

Ratings as measured by C3—the metric used for buying and selling advertising—were down in the third quarter and media companies increased the number of commercials they aired on cable networks to try to keep revenues from sliding.

Analyst Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein notes that the ad load increase of 2% is smaller than last quarter, when it swelled 3%.

Nevertheless, “the continued ad stuffing is an obvious and unsustainable (some would say 'desperate') action by the networks to prop up ad revenue in the face of declining audiences and growing make-good obligations,” Juenger says in his report. “Not only can this not be sustained going forward, it further contributes to the audience declines, making SVOD that much more preferable for viewers made numb by the absurd amount of ads (as well as decreasing the efficacy of the advertising that is still seen).”

According to Juenger’s calculations, A+E Networks had the biggest increase in primetime commercial hours at 4%. 21st Century Fox’s commercial hours at its entertainment channels were up 3%, as were Time Warner’s. The Discovery and Scripps Networks Interactive channels were up 1%, as were NBCUniversal’s entertainment networks.

Viacom, which had big increases in past quarters, was up just 1% in the third quarter. On Viacom’s last earnings call, CEO Philippe Dauman said the company was using non-Nielsen metrics in selling ads and was working with advertisers to reduce the commercial loads in some primetime shows..

AMC Network was flat, because of a 3% decline at WE tv.