According to a new report, Fox plans to cut the amount of commercial time on both its broadcast and cable networks to just 2 minutes per hour. The arrangement between provider and consumer when it comes to broadcast TV has always been pretty simple, at least until the last few decades. Broadcast networks provide shows those at home can watch for free over the air, and in return, viewers are expected to watch the commercials presented during the show and possibly use the products advertised, at least in theory. If all works as expected, the production costs of said shows are recouped by ad sales. The idea is generally the same for basic cable, despite that not being free.
In the current age though, the above arrangement faces many hurdles. Not only are DVRs nearly ubiquitous at this point - which usually allow commercials to be fast-forwarded through - but legal post-airing VOD options abound, only some of which include the level of ads one would see on TV. Additionally, the extreme ease with which the internet allows for piracy has helped chip away at the live viewership levels of just about every show out there. As a result, ratings numbers that would have been considered abysmal even a decade ago are now the new normal for many current programs.
With the trend toward streaming and VOD and away from live TV viewing continuing unabated, it's no wonder that traditional TV content providers are scrambling to try and find a way to salvage their business model. In what seems like quite a drastic step, The Wall Street Journal reports that Fox is planning to cut the amount of commercials during its programs down to 2 minutes per hour by 2020. That's a huge drop from the current average ad time of 13 minutes per hour on broadcast and 16 minutes per hour on cable. The change would reportedly affect both Fox's broadcast network and its cable channels like FX and Fox Sports. As one might imagine, per ad pricing could likely end up being increased to compensate for the overall drop in number of ads.
One aspect that isn't clear concerning this planned massive reduction in Fox commercials by 2020 is what that means for the actual shows. Will 1-hour shows aired on Fox networks now expand from between 40 and 45 minutes (sans commercials, previously on segments and next episode previews) to a beefy 55-plus? Or will Fox simply start airing its formerly 1-hour slotted shows in 45-50 minute slots instead? It's an open question at this juncture.
Another question worth considering is what - if any - effect the impending Disney purchase of Fox might mean for the proposed ad plan. While Disney isn't buying the Fox broadcast network or the company's news and sports channels, it is set to acquire the entertainment cable channels that they own, like FX, FXX, and National Geographic. Disney could theoretically opt to kibosh the drop in ads on those channels once it owns and controls them. For now though, one wonders if Fox's thinking is correct, and fewer - but not no - commercials is the cure for what ails TV.
Source: The Wall Street Journal