Shortening Commercial Breaks with Six-Second Ads

August 31, 2017

flash-proAfter years of skipping television advertisements with DVRs, many Americans have little patience for commercial breaks. And although ads are largely unavoidable during live programming like sporting events or award shows, that doesn’t mean people are paying attention. Oftentimes viewers will fiddle with their smartphones or simply tune out completely while commercials are rolling. This is bad news for companies who pay big bucks to advertise during high-rated time slots.

In an effort to get people watching ads on TV again, at least one network is turning to a format that will be familiar to any frequent user of YouTube or Snapchat. These platforms regularly air commercials that last just seconds, enough time to get a point across but not so long that the viewer gets frustrated. While bite-sized ads might not seem too effective at first glance, they’re apparently dependable enough for Fox to begin experimenting with them. The network recently announced it will sell six-second ad slots for the upcoming NFL season as well as the World Series. The idea is not only to cater to viewers’ dwindling attention spans but also to cut down on extended commercial breaks.

Fox first tested the six-second format during the Teen Choice Awards in breaks that could be as short as half a minute. After telling viewers that the show would be back in thirty seconds, the network aired a quick sequence of mini-ads and then got back to business. What’s more, this strategy allowed Fox to charge just as much for a six-second slot as they would for a 15-second one. In fact, purchasing a six-second ad at the highest end of the market can cost as much as $200,000. The bite-sized format certainly isn’t for every product, though. While a recognizable brand might benefit from a six-second spot, companies with complicated or new products probably wouldn’t be able to convince consumers in such a short timespan.


  1. Will more networks follow Fox’s lead and start selling six-second ad slots?
  2. Do you think six-second ads are more effective or less effective than longer commercials?

Source: Sapna Maheshwari, “Six-Second Commercials Are Coming to N.F.L. Games on Fox,” The New York Times, August 30, 2017. Photo by