Best Practices for Explicit Content Trailers

  |   Best Practices

It’s no surprise to anyone that movies, games, music videos, and television shows have more violence, strong language, and sex than in years past.  Therefore, it’s also no surprise that the trailers promoting these programs also include more explicit content. There has been a growing demand for IVA to include trailers that contain more explicit content in our database. Beginning in March, 2011 IVA began testing the availability of explicit content trailers and they are now available for IVA customers.  This article will describe what constitutes an ‘explicit content’ trailer, how IVA handles them in Media Manager, what your options are for including or not including ‘explicit content’ trailers in your own sites, and what the best practices are for ensuring that these trailers are not presented to audiences for which they are unsuitable.

Overview of Rating Programs in the US

All entertainment content that is available to the general public in the US, whether it’s a movie, video game, music video, or TV show goes through a review process organized industry by industry.  This review process is designed to give parents a sense of whether or not the content is suitable for their children. (Most countries have such a system in place with similar goals.)

Movies:   After 40+ years of use, almost everyone recognize what G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 mean for movies. This designation is assigned by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) which also assigns a rating for movie trailers in the US.  The green band trailers contain the following language: “The following PREVIEW has been approved for APPROPRIATE AUDIENCES” and if the rating has been determined some green bands will also include ‘the film advertised has been rated (insert rating block)”.  (Up until 2009 the language said ‘all audiences’.)  The current language reflects guidelines that indicate the material in the trailer is suitable for the same audience as the movie which follows it.  A red band trailer indicates “The following PREVIEW has been approved for RESTRICTED AUDIENCES ONLY”.  These trailers may be shown before R-rated, NC-17 rated, or unrated movies. Red band trailers contain more profanity nudity, violence, or adult themes reflecting the films for which they were made.  For more information on movie ratings and movie trailers, visit   Previously IVA carried only green band trailers; we now offer both green band and red band trailers.

Music Videos:  The music industry offers a ‘Parental Advisory /Explicit Content” label which is self-applied by record labels to recordings of their choosing.  The use of the advisory label in conjunction with music videos varies from company to company.  For more information on the music advisory  IVA uses the existence of the Parental Advisory label on music as a guideline to the explicit nature of the music videos we include in the archive.

Video Games:  Video games are rated by ESRB, the Entertainment Software Rating Board which has created six categories rating from ‘eC” for Early Childhood, to ‘Ao” for Adults Only.  ESRB also has an Advertising Review Council that administers guidelines for game publishers.  Game trailers are not rated by the ARC, however game publishers are encouraged to advertise accurately, and not include ‘any content that is likely to cause serious or widespread offense to the average customer’.    For more information on video game advertising visit.  IVA’s database does include trailers for video games that are rated M for Mature and AO for Adults Only.

TV:  The television industry has a voluntary program established in 1997, the TV Parental Guidelines, which is a voluntary system in which ratings are determined by broadcast and cable networks.  It has seven categories, TV-Y, TV-Y7, TV-G, TV-PG, TV-14, and TV-MA, which are designed to work with the V-chip which is a federally mandated parental control device that has been built into TV sets since 2000.  The guidelines do not apply to news, sports, infomercials, commercials, shopping channels, or some entertainment news and newsmagazine programs. Programs are rated episode by episode.  Movies which run on TV, such as made-for-TV movies, may carry just the TV rating, or just the MPAA rating (an uncut version running on a premium movie channel), or both. Promotions for a program are not rated but may include information about the program’s rating.  For more information about TV ratings .  IVA carries previews and clips for TV content across all the rating categories.

Explicit Content in IVA APIs

The default setting for all IVA APIs does NOT include explicit content.  If you do not wish to include explicit content on your site, you do not have to do anything.  No explicit content will appear on your site.  As we migrate more of our APIs to web services clients will be able to add explicit content to an API.  We will announce the availability of this choice at when ready.

Explicit Content in Media Manager

Previews containing explicit content are now available in Media Manager.  Every title page for a movie, music video video game, or TV program has always included a field indicating its rating (MPAA, ESRB, RIAA, or TV Parental Guideline). We now include a field for ‘Explicit Content’ in the preview page which will show as either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  When you are creating editorial content for a title you need to look carefully at the “explicit content” field and pick the appropriate Pub ID.

Best Practices for Explicit Content Online

It can be tricky to appropriately target the right audience for explicit content in an online environment.  As a general rule it is easier to restrict content via controls set in place by the end user.  However there are some practices that are available to you as an online publisher:

Rating Notification:  the easiest and most important best practice is simply to display the rating for the program and/or for the trailer before it runs.

Adult SEO:  If your site contains a significant amount of mature content and is designed to primarily appeal to adults, it helps to have that language appear on your site in a location that is easily found by search engines.  That will help the correct audience find you while discourage inappropriate audiences.

Time Gates:  Broadcasters generally restrict explicit material from appearing in time slots that are dominated by younger audiences.  This can be difficult to do online because audiences appear across time zones.  However, if your audience is primarily in the US you can use some discretion in when you feature explicit content.

Age Gates:  The simplest form of age gating is to have a pop up form appear that asks the user to indicate that they are over the age you have designated as appropriate; if they click yes the trailer then plays.  Alternatively the form can ask for their date of birth and prohibit a trailer from showing to users whose birthday is after a designated date (prohibiting ages younger than 12, 15, or 18 for example).  Here’s an example of an age gate for Singularity at  IVA is working on an age-gate plug -in for mobile, and Longtail is working on an age-gate plugin for the JWPlayer 5.  We will let you know when these become available.

If you need more information about handling explicit content, please contact