National Geographic Channel will reduce advertising by more than 25% across its new series and specials in the US, and will air its feature documentaries without commercial interruption. The announcement, made in advance of its annual upfront market, means a “more exclusive showcase for brands, and a more immersive and engaging experience for viewers across linear and non-linear platforms,” NatGeo said today. It’s part of National Geographic’s new programming push into “premium storytelling” around science, adventure and exploration.
NatGeo’s The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, which ended its 6-episode run on May 8th as the network’s most watched series ever, ran with a 50% reduction in national ad time. The trend will continue this fall, the network said, with reduced ad loads on new programs including mini-series Mars, from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the one-hour weekly magazine-talk hybrid relaunch of signature series Explorer, and Ridley Scott’s TV movie adaptation of Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s best-selling book Killing Reagan, starring Tim Matheson and Cynthia Nixon.
In today’s announcement, the company positioned National Geographic as a “forward-thinking media company” that also boasts an “unrivaled sense of purpose and mission,” noting 27% of the proceeds go to the non-profit National Geographic Society – supporting real science, conservation and exploration.
Fox broadcast network, also part of the Fox Networks Group, currently airs primetime soap Empire with fewer commercial interruptions. Fox said it leads other broadcasters in reduced ad loads, basing the claim on data from Nielsen for the broadcast network season to date as of May 1. Fox has carried an average of 10:33 minutes of commercials per hour in primetime, compared with 11:56 minutes for ABC; 11:37 minutes for CBS; 11:46 minutes for NBC and 11:56 minutes for CW.
NatGeo’s jumping on a trend in the industry. In January, TNT announced plans to cut the ad load on three new 2016 drama series by 50%, or eight to nine minutes. Last October, truTV said that, beginning in fourth-quarter this year, it will extend the amount of programming time during each new hour of original, prime programming by more than 20%, which the network claimed will give it the lowest average commercial and promo time in television. Last month, NBC said Saturday Night Live would join the movement toward fewer commercials, cutting the show’s ad load by 30% next season by cutting two commercial pods.
“In today’s super-saturated market, we are transforming the traditional commercial model to ensure that we’re delivering the greatest value to advertisers and the best possible consumer experience,” Toby Byrne, President, Advertising Sales, Fox Networks Group, said in today’s NatGeo news.
“Presenting our new slate of high quality programming across every screen and platform with minimal commercial interruption is just one example of how we are differentiating ourselves in the marketplace,” added Courteney Monroe, Chief Executive Officer, National Geographic Global Networks.