Sky is starting to sell unskippable six-second pre-roll commercials on shows streamed on the Sky Go app. Longer ads will still be shown if there are any ad breaks during the show.

Tests for the ads started at the turn of the year and the six-second format is now established as a part of the broadcaster’s pitch to ad buyers.

“Agencies have been asking for the format as they have six-second creative and are looking for options — especially a brand-safe and premium environment to run the creative in,” said Graeme Hutcheson, director of digital and Sky AdSmart.

Pitched to advertisers as an alternative to the short-form video ads on the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, Sky is hoping the ads further diversify its ad model, which is in constant tension with a subscription service that lets viewer’s ability to skip ads as they watch VOD.

“We met with execs from Sky’s sales team recently, and they pitched it as a format that could be comparable to what we buy on social media,” said an agency exec on condition of anonymity. “The brand safety and quality of content make the shorter ads something to consider even if the scale isn’t comparable to the online platforms it wants to rival.”

While Sky isn’t comparable to platforms in terms of scale, its shorter ads could potentially bolster its attempts to funnel more money away from Facebook et al in the same way it has tried to do with its addressable ad tech Adsmart. A range of clients and categories are already using the six-second ads in Sky Go, said Hutcheson, who declined to name the early adopters.

Smaller advertisers could be drawn to Sky as a result of the shorter ads. Six-second ads could appeal to advertisers that are less familiar with broadcast TV and more comfortable buying ads on social networks where content is more bitesize, said Alex Debenham-Burton, head of reservation media at Essence.

“It is a tried and tested strategy to run longer time lengths initially to sell in a message and create awareness and then drop down to a shorter time length to keep awareness going but at a more cost-effective level — Sky’s six-second ads offer further opportunity for this,” said Debenham-Burton.

Advertisers can run six-second ads elsewhere in the VOD space. The difference with Sky is the shorter ads are appearing in live feeds. ITV and Channel 4 will either be simulcast TV ads in the live feed or an ad displacement that still sticks to the traditional 10 to 60-second tradition TV executions.

“Watching shorter ads on VOD is obviously a different mindset from consumers using social channels such as Facebook and YouTube and doesn’t allow for the sharing type of behavior we see in these channels,” said Debenham-Burton. “It does, however, present an interesting opportunity for those current creatives that generally only exist on these platforms.”

Shorter ads could also prove to be more effective for advertisers on mobile. For some viewers, watching ads on Sky Go is a frustrating experience that’s more obligatory than engaging. Ads in Sky Go can’t be skipped in the same way viewers can when they watch VOD through Sky’s main service. A look at Sky’s community forums revealed how some viewers have resorted to hacks to avoid watching ads, while others have threatened to scrap the service.

Image courtesy of BSkyB. 

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