While large parts of the internet rely on advertising to make their services work, certain paid subscription services have made a name for themselves. Streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, have had a particular influence on how people consume media. The biggest change comes in the fact that Netflix features no advertising, and Hulu features few ads with the option to remove them entirely.
Broadcast television, on the other hand, has not caught on to this trend. Over time, networks have shortened their shows and extended the commercial breaks, the opposite of the trend that has made online services successful. There is a balancing act with broadcast, though: as you lose viewers, you need more ads to make the same revenue. One of the networks is banking on the idea that it works the other way, too.
NBC has announced that, starting later in the year, they will be lowering the number of ads shown during their primetime shows. They are hoping that, by dropping some of the ads, they can pick up some younger viewers who have never experienced television the way that networks air them. This change will apply to 50 of NBCUniversal's home-grown primetime programming, and will include shorter breaks and shorter ads within those breaks, culminating in about a 20% decrease in ads.
Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversals' chairman of advertising and client partnerships, told Variety,
There are more and more consumers, whether it's from Hulu or the Netflixes or Amazons of the world, who are liberated via technology... TV networks would be crazy to believe that anything other than commercial overhaul was anything other than inevitable.
This is a big gamble for the network. They are going to have to see an increase in viewership across these programs for the experiment to continue and expand beyond the 50ish programs. It is a positive sign to see that NBC is recognizing the change that services like Hulu, which they own a 30% stake in, have introduced to the industry, and are willing to try a similar approach in primetime.