The game will feature four fewer breaks than recent editions, going from five breaks per quarter to four. The net number of ads, though, will stay the same. It is the first significant shift of the game’s format since the early 1980s.
Any decision affecting the Super Bowl carries significant consequences, of course. CBS, which carried the most recent Super Bowl, took in $382 million in revenue from the game, according to an estimate by Kantar Media.
For Fox, the changes to the ad plan come amid a time of dramatic transition. Seth Winter, a former NBC executive, joined the company in January to head ad sales for Fox Sports, and former Fox News sales chief Marianne Gambelli was promoted to the top ad sales position last year. Fox Corp. formally entered a new era in March, when the $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox by Disney closed.
As a slimmed-down entity, live events like the Super Bowl will be the lifeblood of the reconstituted Fox. The company is holding its annual upfront presentation to media buyers on May 13, and the NFL is expected to be a cornerstone of that pitch.
Fox’s tweak is just the latest sign of broadcast networks tweaking the advertising experience in order to balance revenue and viewer attention, with viewership fragmenting across the landscape. The network and the NFL decided to implement the changes after reviewing viewing and in-stadium research. On several broadcasts, including regular-season NFL games, Fox has implemented six-second ads as a way of retaining audiences and has been working to reduce its overall ad load.