It’s taken one of Turner’s second tier networks, TruTV, to prove that serving the audience better through shorter ad breaks can pay off for marketers, brands, and presumably the network itself.
TruTV publicized results late in December – covered in AdWeek among others – about its experiment in reducing the length of its ad pods and ad load overall. This experiment created significant gains for the network and its advertiser partners. According to Turner, TruTV will be one of few networks with two years of primetime 18-49 rating increases, with a correspondingly greater length of tune. Brands participating in the shorter ad pod model are seeing advertising ROI lifts “four times compared to traditional pods.”
Sources at Turner tell me that the results were so positive for this strategy that they had to be double- and triple-checked for accuracy. The level of success is a surprise even to TruTV itself. But as for any seller’s research, it behooves those on the buyer side to delve into the details of how the claims were measured and evaluated.
TruTV also claims to have undertaken this effort to not just serve their advertiser partners better, but to also better serve the changing expectations of the audience, particularly those popular millennials. This new strategy may not eliminate ads but aims to bring the network ad load to a more equal footing with the many streaming sources out there.
The business advantage to TruTV is multi-fold. It is recording a greater audience and length of tune (more eyeballs to sell); it can sell a high performing ad model that should allow a premium price; and to boot, the ad model is built around a smaller inventory that creates scarcity and should further increase the price premium.
Now, there are a few big caveats. Currently, only about a tenth of TruTV’s schedule is in this new reduced-ad mode and, despite the success of the strategy, it will take the network until 2021 to fully transition. Given the dynamism of the media environment, that’s a discouragingly long time frame. It’s long enough that some media innovation could make it moot long before complete roll-out. Another drawback is that the strategy is only to be executed against new programming, not against syndicated programming that fills the schedule of many cable networks.
Regardless of any caveats or nit-picking the results, TruTV and Turner should be saluted for trying something different that appears to better serve both the audience and marketers as well. That’s a true win-win.
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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