Stop the skipping: Why programmers need to stop ignoring the ads

In this guest post, Corey Layton asks: with interruption-free services growing and the skip button ever-easier to push, when will the TV industry redesign its advertising strategy?

Corey_Layton 1Commercials. Be it skip or flick, it’s the key moment when audiences disengage. Yet that same moment is at odds with a programmer’s remit… keeping audiences engaged. So why aren’t those tasked with hooking audiences in, taking control to stop the skip?

These are the people that create, craft and commission the countless TV shows that hook each and every one of us in.

So what if these same specialists expanded their remit to achieve the same engagement across the ad breaks? As the primary revenue stream for networks, shouldn’t it be the primary point in the schedule that programmers are actively involved in too?

My last article ‘Podcast Pioneers‘ demonstrated how podcasters have cracked the commercial model, creating advertising that audiences choose to engage with. Though audio is a vastly simpler medium to shift, requiring less time, resource and cost to evolve, the immediate need for TV networks to rethink the model is reflected in the ratings downward trend.

NBC, for instance, woke up to the reality by providing leap day viewers with additional content in place of ads, sponsored by American Express.

While this is a welcome exception, providing it more than once in four years and integrating it deeper than a ‘brought to you by’ must become the norm.

"NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: CEO of Youtube Susan Wojcicki speaks onstage during YouTube Brandcast presented by Google on May 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for YouTube)"

Photo: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for YouTube

As audiences disperse and traditional broadcast reach declines, content juggernauts like YouTube are soaring. CEO Susan Wojcicki announced last week they “reach more 18- to 49-year-olds [in the U.S.] during prime time than the top 10 TV shows combined”.

They’re also rumoured to be launching online TV service ‘Unplugged’ in 2017, grabbing more viewing time and revenue.

Apple and Amazon are reportedly not far behind. Even TV’s last standing reality and sports battlegrounds are under attack, as Netflix launches its first reality format ‘Ultimate Beastmaster’ and Twitter begins streaming the NFL.

Persisting to interrupt audiences with a commercial model built for a time when choice was limited, is no longer an option.

As interruption free services grow and the skip button is easier than ever to push, what’s it going to take for the TV industry to redesign their advertising strategy? Thankfully some programmer’s have recognised and reacted to the need.

NBC’s longstanding sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live (SNL) has announced a 30% reduction of ad loads.

Beyond the spot the network is offering fewer reasons for viewers to switch and advertisers more reason to pay a premium.

viceland tv channelAcross the season, the SNL team will create original branded content, entertaining audiences in similar ways to the show, while weaving brand messaging throughout. Vice is another leader in this space following the March launch of Viceland in the States, the fastest growing TV network in the medium’s history.

They’ve exploited the freedom of launching a new channel to collaborate with advertisers and agencies in much the same way as their integrated digital offering.

From entertainment to utility, when it comes to rethinking ad break structures that enable premium brand led content, this is just the start. For instance, a brand could use the IP and talent of a well-known drama to create a sub-series told over multiple break buyouts.

Brands could produce a unique game show format or even create entire evening line-ups with hosted wraparound programming.

Provided its content audiences choose to engage with and aligns to the program’s values and tone, it will curb viewers’ desires to skip.

tvSo what’s holding traditional programmer’s back? Focus. From the top down, programmer’s need to be given the remit and scope to flex their expertise, looking beyond the programs themselves and across the content that continuously interrupts them.

While that may result in shifting the elusive first in break promo and ditching the 30” stopwatch, the opportunity and necessity is real.

As audiences increasingly opt for interruption-free experiences enabled by subscription-based streaming services and ad blockers, it’s imperative that programmers pave the way, collaborating with agencies and brands to challenge the skippable culture and engage audiences in new ways.

One that keeps audiences watching, brands paying a premium and networks increasing their yield. The question is, how much longer can network’s afford to avoid it?

Corey Layton is the group ideas director for Ensemble


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.