Super Bowl to Have Fewer Ad Breaks for First Time in Modern Era

(Bloomberg) -- For the first time in decades, the Super Bowl will have fewer commercial breaks.

Fox Corp. and the National Football League are cutting the number of breaks per quarter to four from five for next year’s big game. It’s a bet that fewer interruptions will make the ads more memorable and make the game seem like it’s moving faster. There will be one additional “floater” break.

TV networks carrying the NFL have moved to four breaks per quarter for the past two years during the playoffs but haven’t used the format for a Super Bowl since the early 1980s.

Having fewer breaks doesn’t necessarily mean fewer commercials. But the move could help Fox justify charging higher ad prices, since the NFL’s research has found that the pattern leads to better ad retention. The Super Bowl is the most expensive commercial time on television, with 30-second spots costing over $5 million.

Fox and the NFL had to try something. While the Super Bowl is still the most-watched TV event of the year, viewership and advertising sales have declined. This year, Super Bowl ad sales fell more than 6 percent. CBS Corp. collected $382 million in ad sales during February’s game, down from the $408 million that Comcast Corp.’s NBC got last year and Fox’s $419 million in 2017, according to estimates from Kantar Media.

The viewing audience came in at 98.2 million, also down from last year and the lowest since 2008.

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