Small Decline in TV Ad Loads in 4th Quarter

Television networks mostly cut their ad loads in the fourth quarter but not as much as pronouncements by senior media executives would have led people to expect, according to one industry alnalyst.

Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein says that ad loads were down 1% for non-kids programming, but were up 1% in kids programming. And Juenger says there were many non-kids networks where ad load went up in the quarter.

“For all the promises we have heard from network executives about reducing ad loads, this doesn’t seem like much progress,” said Juenger in a research note Thursday morning.

Obviously, if you reduce your ad load, you’re likely to also reduced revenues, Juenger points out.

Viacom, which has been notorious for stuffing large numbers of commercials into its programming, showed a 4% reduction in its non-kids programming ad load. The ad loads on Viacom networks are still 9% higher than the industry average. But Juenger says ads were up 1%. With C3 ratings down 7% for Viacom’s non-kids networks, reducing ads by 4% means the net delivery of ad units was down 11%.

AMC Networks’ ad load was also down, by more than 6%, and Time Warner was down a bit. Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting has said it plans to sharply cut ad loads at its TNT, TBS and truTV networsk.

Among the other TV programmers, the ad load at 21st Century Fox’s cable networks was up 2.4%. But according to Juenger, its ad load was the lowest among the programmers.

A+E Networks’ ad loads were up 2%, while its audience fell 19% in C3 ratings.

At Disney’s ABC Family, no Freeform, the only non-kids Disney network in the report, ad loads were up 10% in the quarter.

Ad loads were up slightly at Scripps Networks and Discovery.

Juenger says that for the quarter, C3 audiences for non-kids networks was down 6%. Kids viewing rose 2%, the first quarterly increase in quite a while.

(Photo via Ervins Strauhmanis's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 19, 2014 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

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.