NBC, Fox Say Shorter Ad Pods Packing Punch

The first data is in for the shortened commercial pods that are part of the effort by NBCUniversal and Fox to improve the TV viewer experience while making spots more effective for advertisers.

NBCU calls its product PrimePods and said they would run in the top 50 shows on its many networks. Fox sold JAZ pods, so named because they had spots in Just the A, or first position, and the Z, or last position, with only some promotional material in between.

After two months of the new season, both broadcasters are pointing to research that shows that when ads run in the shorter pods, their message is more memorable and the sponsor’s brand comes off as more likeable.

Both NBCU and Fox plan to air more of their short pods as the season goes on.

NBC has been airing PrimePods in the first commercial breaks of shows like This Is Us. It said it will air now them in more of the programs on its networks, and that the pods might air in different parts of shows. In some reality shows, like The Voice, the PrimePods might run closer to the end, when a winner is announced, NBCU executive vice president of strategic insights and analytics Kavita Vazirani said. Alternatively, multiple prime pods might appear in a single episode, she said.

Advertisers generally like the idea of fewer spots and shorter pods in network shows. But the networks were looking for much higher prices to make up for the revenue loss from having fewer spots. Eventually, an agreeable price was worked out.

Clearing Out the Clutter

“TV shows are over-commercialized without a doubt, so it’s absolutely a smart step to try to correct that, and that’s what they were trying to do,” Horizon Media co-chief investment officer Dave Campanelli said. “And we have been on board with that from the start.

“The question has always been the price tradeoff,” he said. “How much are they looking to charge, and do we think it’s worth the value? With NBC, we were able to work that out and we’ve been happy with the performance to date.”

Fox’s research on its JAZ pods found that the improved viewer experience boosted ad likability 36% above brand norms and message recall was up 22% as measured by Nielsen.

Viewers kept their eye on the screen, according to research Fox conducted with TVision. Attention visibility was up 26% and attention duration was up 72%.

Fox also found that its Fox Blocks of branded content that filled the space left because of the shorter ad break did a good job of retaining the audience.

“The numbers were good, and we got a lot of social and other feedback and that was instructive,” Fox executive vice president of sales research insights and strategy Audrey Steele said.

“It does take time to train viewers to do something different, unless you’re giving really explicit instructions,” Steele said. “But we saw that people pretty quickly got keyed into the fact that the breaks were short and they were going to miss something if they left.”

JAZ pods will return with The Orville in midseason and will be appearing in each of the show’s episodes, which should make viewers more familiar with them.

“Because of the fact that we’re doing a whole season of a show for every break, we’ll start to see better and better results over the course of it,” Steele said.

Engagement Gets a Boost

NBCU’s Vazirani said NBC has already studied 40 PrimePods from 40 advertisers in 10 different categories. It worked with research company EDO to study search engagement and found consumers were 39% more likely to search for PrimePod brands versus previously established norms. She said that one PrimePod has the same impact as 2.7 traditional ad units.

While NBCU is still collecting data it has seen enough to expand its deployment of PrimePods.

NBCU is looking to put PrimePods in different shows and different spots. It might double down and put more than one PrimePod in a show, or move some PrimePods from the beginning of the show to the end, particularly in reality shows, when a winner is being revealed.

“We’re looking at it on a program-by-program level and then, once we have a sense of where that’s headed, that will help us refine our strategy for future expansion,” Vazirani said.

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.