There’s probably nothing you hate more when it comes to TV than commercials. Our festering hatred for them as a culture has become so strong that entire industry arms—DVR, Netflix—have sprouted out of our active avoidance of them.
When you think about it, there are an awful lot of commercials. As of now, an average of 42 minutes per hour-long TV programming block goes to actual content, while the remaining time goes to ads. For half-hour shows, content gets around 22 minutes out of every 30, with ads taking up nearly a third of our viewing time. As a result, ad time has become a major issue in the debate over how to woo viewers back to live TV.
Networks have been brainstorming various avenues through which to address the issue, such as Viacom and Turner, who have committed to reducing their networks’ commercial load. Meanwhile, digital streamers like Hulu have created tiered options that allow you to avoid advertisements to differing degrees.
NBC’s long-running sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live has decided to begin tackling its content-to-commercial time ratio issue now. Starting next season, the series will be reducing the number of commercials it airs during its live telecasts by 30 percent. That eliminates two commercial pods, giving those involved with the production a decent chunk of available content time back.
It’s hard to tell the extent to which the change will help (or hurt) the situation, but for SNL, a show with a steady ratings decline—as content is constantly going viral on the web—it’s clear that something needs to be done to strengthen the bridge between the ways we watch, especially when it comes to a show wholly designed for a live, attentive audience.
SNL creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels feels confident that the change is a positive one and that now is the time to do it. Speaking to Deadline, Michaels acknowledged that broadcast TV’s historically increasing reliance on ad time has hurt viewers’ relationship with programming. An alteration like this gives the creators and viewers alike back some control. “As the decades have gone by, commercial time has grown,” said Michaels. “This will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live.”
In terms of production changes, viewers can expect to see more pre-taped segments, allowing for more time, in addition to the remaining commercial breaks, to be used to re-stage the sets for each new live skit. As for the business side of it, there is no clear as of yet to whether NBC plans to charge a premium for remaining commercials, but viewers can expect to see more original sponsored content from advertisers willing to collaborate on branded sketches.