Networks like Turner and Viacom have been testing out running fewer commercials per hour.
Why would they do this? Fewer commercial spots per hour create scarcity. If the increased price that they can charge advertisers offsets the lost revenue from the cut spots then this is a good idea.
Simple math from NBCUniversal and Saturday Night Live (SNL):
1) Prior to reduced ad loads SNL charges $20/CPM
2) SNL reduces ad load by 30%
3) If the new CPM $ for the remaining ads is $26 or higher, then they generate more revenue while running fewer ads.
More on this topic. Report: TV networks, cutting back ad loads, see falling revenue
The problem. Revenue for some networks has fallen while cutting ad loads.
Early results from Viacom using February 2017 data:
1) Minutes of ads: ↓ 11% (1,284 from 1,436)
2) Viewership: ↓ 19%
3) Ad revenue: ↓ 2%