One of the more consistent worst things about watching RAW or SmackDown is the commercial breaks. We’re not saying there shouldn’t be any commercials — we know how ad revenues work and that WWE is a business — but the pacing difference between an advertisement-less pay-per-view and even a great episode of RAW is ever-apparent thanks to commercial breaks.
NBCUniversal is testing out a way to stop that from happening, but don’t take our introduction to this story as a naive feeling that USA Network’s parent company is doing this for our benefit. No, they want us to keep our televisions tuned in to SmackDown Live without changing channels when commercials hit, and to that end, picture-in-picture advertisements are going to be a standard part of the Tuesday show from now on.
If you feel like you’ve seen them do this before with SmackDown, you aren’t wrong. NBCUniversal is just planning to go all-in on it now, making SmackDown the first show on any of their networks where this is the norm:
When the commercial break starts, the sound will go down on the action, but viewers will still be able to see the “Superstars” bash each other with steel chairs and jump from the turnbuckles. Meanwhile, the ad message plays with sound and motion.
NBCU tested the concept last year and expects to go forward with it later this month or in early June. The names of the participating advertisers was not disclosed. Picture-in-picture will be included as NBCU sells WWE programming on USA in the upfront.
The tests were successful, so NBCU will run this on SmackDown and also during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sports (or sports entertainment, in the case of WWE’s product) are ripe for this sort of thing, as cable networks continue to push the idea that they are DVR-proof and will be watched live with commercials being part of that.
That doesn’t work for all sports, necessarily, but WWE interrupts matches all the time, and being able to see what goes down during a commercial instead of being hit with “Here’s what you missed during the break!” replays that obscure the action is a welcome change.
And if you want to keep fast-forwarding through commercials because you like to start SmackDown 30 minutes after it begins, well, that’s going to be okay, too. NBCU is already used to that happening, anyway, but if they can keep the people who watch live hooked for two hours, that’s a win for them and their advertising program. And for viewers, maybe, depending on what kind of action WWE has planned for these commercial breaks with no in-ring sound.
It’s not quite as good as when WWE used to push the commercial break action to their app along with commentary, but on the plus side, you don’t need to dig out your phone or tablet to keep watching the match you were already watching. And you won’t need to hear Michael Cole tell you 600 times per episode to download the app, either.