Family Guy Will Air an Episode With a Reduced Ad Load for the First Time

March 11 show will have fewer advertising pods

Family Guy's March 11 episode will air with limited commercial interruptions.

After 15 seasons on the air, there’s very little ground that Family Guy has yet to cover, but Fox has managed to pull off something new for the comedy’s March 11 episode, which will air with limited commercial interruptions for the first time in series history.

The episode will air with fewer ad pods than a standard Family Guy episode. Fox made the announcement today at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

The Family Guy stunt is Fox Networks Group’s latest effort to clean up the advertising environment for audiences since Joe Marchese was named the company’s president of advanced advertising products last May. He’s already introduced six-second linear ads and eliminated standard 30-second spots on FX’s streaming and VOD platforms.

“Anything that hits the theme of, it’s better for the viewer and it’s better for the advertiser, we will commit resources to,” Joe Marchese told Adweek last summer.

In the episode, “Send in Stewie, Please,” baby Stewie (voiced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane) is sent to the office of his school’s child psychologist (voiced by Sir Ian McKellen) after pushing a classmate and experiences several emotional revelations about himself.

Family Guy, which is now airing in its 15th season, will air its 300th episode on Jan. 14.

UPDATE: Family Guy producers told Adweek that idea for the reduced ad load came about because the episode was running long, and Fox decided that limited commercial interruption would be an ideal solution to accommodate its longer run time. “I will give them credit, because they said, ‘We’re going to find a sponsor,’ and then they said, ‘Even if we don’t, we’re going to air it without interruption,'” said executive producer and co-showrunner Rich Appel.

Even prior to Marchese’s promotion to ad sales chief, Fox had dabbled with reduced ad loads for Empire, which has aired with fewer ad pods since its 2015 debut.

“Empire is presented with about 20 percent fewer commercial interruptions, and it’s worked out brilliantly,” Fox Television Group CEO and chairman Dana Walden told Adweek in 2016. “It gave us a perfect opportunity to monetize those spots in a meaningful way where our sponsors are getting so much bang for their buck.”

Over the past two years, networks have increasingly looked to present a less cluttered advertising environment to compete with ad-free competitors like Netflix and HBO. In December, truTV announced it will transition its entire schedule to the limited-commercial-interruption (LCI) format.

Since truTV dropped up to nine minutes of ads per hour in the fall of 2016 for the lowest average commercial and promo time in all of television, it is one of the only networks with two years of prime-time rating increases in the 18-49 demo, while length of tune-in (the average amount a time that a viewer is tuned into a network) has also increased. Brands in the network’s LCI pods are seeing ROI (return on investment) lifts of four times compared with traditional pods.

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