The Time Warner-owned cable-news network intends to cut back the number of commercial breaks and ads that run in the anchor’s two regular programs, “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on weekdays and “State of the Union” on Sundays, part of a growing effort by many media companies to explore new ways to weave advertising with content and still make money off the relationship.
“It’s a first step,” acknowledged Katrina Cukaj, executive vice president of portfolio sales and client partnerships for Turner Ad Sales, in an interview. CNN is part of Time Warner’s Turner unit, which also operates cable networks like TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network.
Turner has been testing the idea of cutting back on commercial interruptions in programming for several seasons. In the fourth quarter of 2016, its TruTV began running longer versions of some of its programs, with fewer ads interspersed throughout. Under the plan announced at the time, TruTV was slated to run just 10 minutes to 11 minutes of national commercials and promos, compared to a previous ad load of 18 minutes to 19 minutes. Episodes of shows that air under the new model could have run as long as 25 minutes. Turner has since tested the strategy with some of its dramas on TNT.
Other companies have tried to bring the concept to broader use. NBCUniversal has indicated it wants to cut ad time in original primetime broadcasts by 10% in the fall across its broadcast and cable networks. Fox Networks Group has unveiled new 60-second pods it believes will give rise to ads that will be more memorable and spark better recall and attention from consumers. Ad buyers have cheered the decision, even as they have pushed back against what they see as overly aggressive pricing for some of the new ad concepts.
CNN typically has sizable advertiser interest in its political programming as the calendar moves toward prominent elections, said Cukaj. And the network often cuts back commercials during big breaking news stories or important interviews with newsmakers. “We’ve done it in pockets,” she said of the limited commercial interruption strategy. “This is the first time we will be doing it consistently.”
If the strategy proves attractive, she said, CNN might consider using it in other programs.