Time Warner’s plan for winning back cord cutters? Fewer commercials

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Time Warner is trying out a new strategy to win back cord cutters. The plan: Show more programming and fewer commercials.

The media conglomerate announced last week that it will cut advertising in half for original prime-time programming on TruTV, one of the cable networks in its Turner Broadcasting division, beginning in 2016. 

The move will deliver 21% more content to viewers, said John Martin, CEO of Turner Broadcasting.

It will serve as a test case for Turner, which also includes networks such as TBS, TNT, CNN, and the Cartoon Network, to see whether limiting commercial interruptions will be a draw for consumers. “We’re starting with truTV,” said Martin. “We’re going to learn a lot.”

Time Warner, which also owns HBO and Warner Bros., has been openly critical about the performance of TruTV; telling investors that the reality-show channel has had a significant decline in viewership of late.

“Over time, we think a better viewing experience will help drive higher viewership and enhance the value proposition of our networks,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said on the company’s Nov. 4 earnings call.

As Variety reported, Turner doesn’t expect the new approach to have any real impact on TruTV’s revenue. That’s because the network plans to charge sponsors more money to run ads in the less-cluttered environment.

And Turner has no plans to apply the ad-slashing strategy to its other properties—yet.

“When we think about the ad clutter that we have on our networks, I’m comfortable with where we are for the most part,” said Martin. “But I think [TruTV] is going to be a very, very interesting experiment to see whether it actually will make a difference with respect to the viewing experience.”