Fox Plans Two-Commercial Pods During Sunday PrimetimeShows

Fox is planning to reduce the commercial time in its programs starting with new pods on Sunday nights that will have just two spots per break.

The plans were announced late last week at an advertising summit hosted by Fox ad revenue president Joe Marchese, who said the network’s goal is to get down to two minutes per hour of advertising by the year 2020.

With ad revenue flat to falling and advertisers shifting money to digital, TV networks have been looking for ways to increase the value of commercials. They’ve been using data for better targeting, but cutting clutter and reducing supply, thus boosting prices, has also been popular.

Last month, NBCUniversal announced plans to cut the ad load in original primetime shows by 10%. 

Reducing ad loads is also seen as a way to keep viewers from jumping to commercial free environments like Netflix.

"We want to improve the consumer experience and create a better environment for our advertisers' messaging.," says Bruce Lefkowitz, executive VP of ad sales at Fox Networks Group. 

Fox’s plan will be launched in the upfront and start in the fourth quarter when all of the advertising on Sunday nights will be contained in two-spot pods Fox is calling Jazz, which means just the “a” or first positions and  “z,” the last position, according to Lefkowitz.

The Jazz spots will be offered at a fixed price that would presumably be higher than what Sunday night spots cost this season. Fox views them as a different product at a different price, rather than raising the price of its 30-second spot inventory.

The network does not plan to make its shows longer to compensate for the reduced ad load. Instead it will create Fox Blocks that will contain branded content from advertisers.

Depending on their ad deal terms, Fox ad clients will get dollars put into a content production fund. Those funds will be used to create branded content that could use Fox intellectual property, original intellectual property or material created by Fox’s internal ad agency.

One example of what that could look like could be the two-minute Halloween themed branded content that Mars aired last year.

Or clients could use their content space to create news or sports updates.

The move, combined with Fox adding Thursday Night Football in the fall, should tighten up Fox’s primetime inventory, putting upward pricing on commercials.

Fox might also air Jazz spots on Thursday nights after the football season ends.

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.