National Geographic Channel says it is cutting the amount of commercial time in its new series by 25%.
The move comes just before the start of the TV upfront ad sales market and comes at a time when a number of networks are looking to make their commercial time more attractive by reducing commercial clutter.
National Geographic Channel is run by 21st Century Fox, whose CEO James Murdoch has been vociferous about the need for advertising to innovate to keep viewers tuned in and engaged and to make TV work harder for marketers.
Last year, Turner Broadcasting said it was making big cuts in the ad loads on its truTV network. It also plans to air fewer ads in new original shows on TNT. NBC recently announced it is cutting ads in Saturday Night Live and adding in branded content for its clients. Viacom, which is notorious for stuffing commercials into its shows, has also pledged to reduce ad loads on some of its networks in primetime.
Nat Geo says it has already begun cutting back on ads. It said The Story of God with Morgan Freeman, which concluded May 8 as the most-watched series in the network's history, ran 50% less advertising than normal.
In the fall, ad loads will be reduced on Mars from Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the relaunched Explorer, and Ridley Scott's adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's book Killing Reagan, which will star Tim Matheson and Cynthia Nixon.
"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," said Toby Byrne, president, advertising sales, Fox Networks Group. "By reducing ad loads across National Geographic and on other shows in our portfolio, combined with our innovative ad technology and strategy, we are creating a TV experience that amplifies brands and commands maximum attention from viewers."
The top rated show on the Fox broadcast network, Empire, also airs with a reduced commercial load, which might be contributing to its popularity with both viewers and advertisers. Fox Networks Group says Fox has the fewest commercials among the broadcast networks at 10.3 minutes per hour in primetime.
21st Century Fox took a controlling stake in its joint venture with National Geographic Society last year. The network is now looking to make a push into high-quality programming focusing on science, adventure and exploration.
"As National Geographic increases its investment in premium storytelling, we're committed to providing a more immersive experience for our viewers," said Courteney Monroe, CEO National Geographic Global Networks. "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."