YouTube is testing fewer, longer ad breaks on its TV apps

You may also see exactly how long you have to wait until you can skip the remaining ads.


YouTube is testing a different approach to ads on smart TVs, as well as its apps on connected devices like Apple TV and game consoles. The platform is experimenting with having longer ad breaks but fewer of them on those devices, which it refers to as connected TV or CTV experiences.

The idea is to show you ads in a way that's better aligned with each platform where you watch YouTube. On mobile, you might be more inclined to watch content like Shorts in more bitesize chunks, so shorter, rapid-fire ad breaks may make more sense. However, YouTube notes that nearly two-thirds of CTV watch time in the US lasts at least 21 minutes — around the length of a sitcom episode on broadcast TV.

The service cites research indicating that 79 percent of viewers would prefer that YouTube bunch ads together rather than spreading them out over the duration of a longer video. As such, YouTube believes that minimizing disruption is the way to go, and having longer, fewer ad breaks is one idea it's trying.

It sounds a bit like the UK TV industry's approach to advertising versus how US networks handle things. You might have time to make a cup of tea during a Coronation Street ad break in Blighty, but good luck doing that between segments of a Grey's Anatomy episode Stateside.

It's unclear exactly how YouTube plans to divvy things up, such as if it will have one four-minute break per hour instead of four one-minute ad slots. The service also didn't say whether it will show more ads overall if it moves forward with this plan.

Image of a YouTube ad, showing a counter in the bottom right corner indicating how long the viewer has to wait until they can skip the rest of an ad break.

In addition, YouTube is looking into ways of being more transparent about the total length of ad breaks rather than showing the time remaining for each individual spot. Romana Pawar, YouTube Ads director of product management, wrote that the platform will soon publicly test an ad experience along those lines — you'll see just how long you have to wait before you can skip the remaining ads.

YouTube has been tinkering with CTV ad formats for quite some time. Earlier this year, it announced unskippable 30-second ads for its TV apps. You can probably expect the service to keep experimenting with how it presents ads across platforms. Alternatively, you can free yourself from having to put up with (seemingly less frequent) interruptions by stumping up for YouTube Premium's ad-free experience.