MTV’s ‘Shannara’ Premieres With Limited Commercials

At a time when programmers are looking to reduce ad loads, MTV this week launched its new series The Shannara Chronicles commercial-free for the first 28 minutes it was on the air.

MTV promoted the fantasy show’s debut Tuesday as being presented with limited commercial interruptions by The Real Cost, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ anti-smoking campaign.

During the two-hour premiere, only about 14 ad minutes ran total—fewer than MTV usually airs in its hour-long series. MTV also ran some promos in the show.

MTV made sure viewers knew the commercial breaks would be short by running a countdown clock showing when it would return to the program. In one case, the break featured behind the scenes video from Shannara that was co-branded by The Real Cost. That break concluded with an anti-smoking spot.

Execs at MTV declined to comment but the limited commercial tactic was both an effort to maximize viewership of Shannara for MTV and a sign of parent company Viacom’s efforts to lower the ad loads on its channels.

Viacom’s viewers skew young, making them more likely to stream shows or use devices that allow them to skip commercials, which has contributed to falling ratings. To keep ad revenues from dropping as fast, the company had increased ad load to industry highs. That turned off both viewers and advertisers, leading to a corporate edict to reduce the number of ads that run during shows. The company hopes that by reducing ad loads now, ratings will rise, leading to increased revenues down the road.

The premiere drew a healthy 1.9 million viewers with a simulcast that included MTV2, Teen Nick and NickToons.

At least one viewer noticed the ad load and tweeted: “I love that @Shannara doesn’t’ have a lot of commercials. Thank you!!!”

For the second episode, the Shannara Chronicles is expected to have normal ad load for MTV, but what’s normal now for MTV in primetime is down somewhat from last year.

Other companies including Turner Broadcasting and 21st Century Fox have also been talking about cutting the ad load in their shows. Fox has been airing its big hit Empire with a reduced commercial load.

On Thursday, Kevin Reilly, president of Turner’s TNT and TBS, said some new shows on TNT could have 50% lower ad loads next season.

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.