Is This the Future of NBC (Sports) Advertising?

Have we gone to the mountaintop and seen the future? NBC’s Linda Yaccarino might be creating it.

Recently on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, we saw something rarely seen before. Instead of a straight break to commercial pod, a split screen appeared showing both advertising and Ninja Warrior programming.

MasterCard ran its ad on 3/4 of the TV screen while Ninja Warrior (highly visual) remained on screen in 1/4 of the TV screen.

About a year ago, Linda Yaccarino held a mini-summit equivalent to a “Houston We Have a Problem” moment. There, she said what needed to be said –that we as an industry had to reduce commercial time, make TV more measurable and think outside the box. C3 Metrics dubbed Yaccarino TV’s Gandhi because of her willingness that day to take a courageous stand to do what’s right.

But in light of this, would NBC (or any other network) do anything truly different besides rearrange the furniture inside their house?

Somebody over at NBC must have taken to heart a recent eMarketer study: when TV commercials come on, 70% of heads go down. Call it “downheading.” As a result, attention goes to Facebook and Google (which are the true enemies of TV networks in their battle for ad dollars).

But on American Ninja Warrior, NBC prevented “downheading” and kept viewers engaged by maintaining programming content on-screen (without audio) while TV commercials played on 3/4 of the screen (with audio).

Could this happen in scripted, reality, or TV news programming? Not at all.

But with highly visual programming like sports, the game continues while the TV ads play. No downheading, no eyeballs diverted to Facebook/Google.

So NBC wasn’t just bluffing. Like Ghandi, they’re becoming the change they want to see happen in the world.