How TNT Is Changing Commercial Breaks In A Huge Way

When former Fox exec Kevin Reilly was brought in as the new Chief Creative Officer for TNT and sister network TBS, he made it clear that he wanted to make big changes to put these networks in contention with other more prestigious channels. That process began with some cancellations and the hunt for more exciting new series, and now TNT is going to completely change up how utilizes commercial breaks, with a plan to chop ad times in half for some of its primetime dramas. Now this is a TV trend that everyone could hopefully latch onto.

Somewhat unfortunately, TNT won’t be using this approach with any of its returning shows, so The Librarians and the final season of Rizzoli and Isles will still contain the average of 18-20 minutes of product hocking. But for the new dramas The Alienist, Good Behavior, and Animal Kingdom, audiences can likely expect to see only 8 or 9 minutes of ads sprinkled between the scenes. This will obviously change up when those breaks will come during the show, and Reilly is looking to experiment with how that plays out, by possibly using three-minute-long commercials and specific ad campaigns. Another step involves dealing with producers of Good Behavior and Animal Kingdom, as both shows have already shot their pilots with normal commercial breaks in mind.

The obvious question of “Well, why doesn’t everyone do this?” is followed by the obvious answer “Because ad money is everything,” and Reilly fully understands the huge risks. That’s just another part of the experimentation. Here’s what he told Deadline.

The problem is that it is a multi-billion dollar issue for us, so we can’t just wave a wand. I can reduce the ad load tomorrow but if I do it, a billion dollars will get off my book. So we are not going to do that but the way we are selling the network in general is changing as we get more data-based. We’re working on the whole formula right now but certainly with an uptick in ratings and pricing, that takes one step in that direction.

Avoiding ads is always a plus for viewers, so watching an extended Apple commercial instead of a bunch of longer random ads would be hard to argue against. Hulu supplemented its revolving door of lengthy and repeating ads with charging a fee for a commercial-free option. Obviously a network can’t copy that exact plan, at least not on linear TV, but one of the hopes here is that the shorter ad-time will draw in viewers for whom that is an important selling point, such as the people with that Hulu subscription.

Turner Broadcasting, TNT’s parent company, already put a plan like this into action when TruTV chopped its ad time in half last year. But this is obviously on an entirely different scale, as TNT has a larger audience that is faithful to both the primetime shows and the syndicated shows. You still the shit, though, Hack My Life.

Surely TNT bringing back a fan favorite series like Tales from the Crypt will draw a bigger crowd than the average new show, and if this commercial-tightening plan is more success than failure, we’ll get to see even “morgue” of each episode. That was my impression of the Cryptkeeper, everyone. What do you guys think of TNT’s plans for the future?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.