US Insights

More breaks costing NBC points with viewers?

Jon Swallen

Chief Research Officer, Kantar Media Intelligence North America

TV 08.15.2016 / 15:25

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More frequent primetime breaks for Olympics may be stoking complaints about advertising overload

What's the most popular sport among TV viewers tuning into the Rio Games on NBC platforms? Gymnastics, swimming, and track and field certainly would fare well in a popularity poll and not surprisingly, NBC’s primetime coverage has and will continue to give plenty of coverage to these events.

But in addition to the 306 official Olympic events that will award medals in Rio, another sport has been passionately embraced by viewers and discussed on social media: complaining about the interruptions for TV commercials. As found in Kantar Media’s analysis, commercial load isn’t breaking any new records – but audiences still may be onto something.   

Key Numbers

  • 7-8 avg # breaks per primetime hour for Rio
  • 5-6 avg # breaks per regular primetime hour

Perception may be more important and enduring than reality, but commercial monitoring data are an objective basis for evaluating what is actually happening. We’ve analyzed our data in two ways, tabulating both the amount of ad time and the number of commercial breaks in NBC’s primetime telecasts. Both dimensions can contribute to viewer perceptions of commercial intrusion.

The first seven days of the Olympics (August 5-11) saw an average of 15 minutes, 37 seconds of advertising per hour. This figure is inclusive of all commercial messages a viewer is potentially exposed to: paying sponsors plus station promotional announcements; national ads plus local market spots. The comparable amount in the 2012 London Olympics was nearly identical at 15 minutes, 38 seconds. Regular NBC primetime programming typically has about 16-17 minutes per hour.

While the overall amount of commercial time has been normal, the number of commercial interruptions has been atypical. There has been an average of seven to eight ad breaks per hour compared to a norm of five to six in regular primetime programming. More frequent breaks fuel the perception of over-commercialization even as the duration of these pods has been a bit shorter.

Kantar Media will continue to track and report on commercial loads during the Olympics.



Source: Kantar Media

Editor's Notes

The chart above includes paid spots and station promos airing nationally or on local affiliates, Mon-Sat 8-11 pm / Sun 7-11 pm. Journalists, for inquiries or to speak with the author, contact us. Follow us @Kantar and sign up for our alerts.

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