Fox wants to make some of its commercial interruptions so short that viewers can’t run out on them.
Executives representing the Fox broadcast network have been discussing a commercial pod they call a “Fast Break” during recent development meetings with media buyers, according to three people familiar with the situation. The pod would appear as the first in a particular program broadcast and contain just 60 seconds of national commercials, these people said. They will contain no more than three different ads lasting 15 seconds to 30 seconds. Just before the break comes on the air, viewers would be told the ad interruption will be shorter, according to one of these people.
Fox isn’t the only network working to cut back on the dozens of commercials for air fresheners, gadgets and allergy medications flung at couch potatoes every hour (NBCUniversal has been trying the same) but it has been among the most ready to test new methods. Earlier this TV season, Fox rolled out a concept known as a “JAZ Pod,” or a two-commercial break that has aired during episodes of “The Orville” and in programs on certain Sunday broadcasts.
At a time when a rising generation of viewers has grown accustomed to seeing few if any ads when they stream video favorites, traditional TV networks are fighting to find ways to get them to watch the commercials that generate billions of dollars in revenue. Disney Channel recently launched a new TV movie, “Kim Possible,” with a minute-long break that primarily featured previews of Disney content. NBC has cut back on the number of ads that run during “Saturday Night Live.” AMC has in recent weeks interrupted ad breaks during its flagship “The Walking Dead” with snippets of content from the next segment of the show, with a reminder to viewers of how much time is left before the program returns from ads.
Fox views the new “Fast Break” as a less complex offering that can be utilized more frequently throughout the season. The “JAZ Pods,” which ran throughout a broadcast, required showrunners to devise additional content to fill time normally taken up by commercials. The “Fast Break” pods allow the network to reallocate commercial time across the show, according to one media buyer familiar with the recent discussions.
The new ad format isn’t being offered on Fox Sports 1, Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network, according to one of these people, and is designed to accompany traditional scripted series.
Fox has reason to dangle new ideas in front of its sponsors. The network is now part of a new entity, Fox Corporation, in the wake of the recent sale of much of the Murdoch family’s Fox assets to Walt Disney Co. The new, smaller Fox is relying more heavily on live programming, sports and news. Indeed, come this fall, Fox will offer big sports events Thursday through Sunday in the form of NFL football, “WWE Smackdown” and college football, leaving it with fewer hours for traditional comedies and dramas.
Reworking the advertising around the scripted programming that remains might give those shows added allure on Madison Avenue just as the industry’s annual “upfront” sales season is poised to get underway. Each year, U.S. media companies use the yearly haggle to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the coming programming cycle.
Fox may have to vie with NBC for the naming rights to the new format. NBC Sports has also been offering its sponsors a technique known as a “fast break,” or a short commercial pitch inserted at very specific moments of game time.