Learning to listen faster to the new TV
Do TV commercials seem to be more frequent than ever before? If it seems that way to you, you are twice right. More commercials, more quickly. They’re playing the 33 LP at 45, if you catch my drift.
In 1960 there were 9 minutes of commercials for every 51 minutes of programming. By 2012 that had doubled. 18 commercials for every 42 minutes of programming, or by the half hour, 9 commercials for 21 minutes. Which means that your commercial quotient for ten hours of viewing went up from 90 minutes to 180 minutes. Three hours of ads for 10 hours of viewing, looks suspiciously like 30%. Which seems too much.
Recently, the networks moved to squeeze in even more commercials by speeding up the transmission of both the program and the commercial. Wall Street Journal carried an article, Cable TV Shows Are Sped Up to Squeeze in More Ads, which says in part,
“Don’t be surprised if Rachel sounds a bit higher pitched next time you catch a rerun: cable channels are speeding up shows to squeeze in more commercials. They can shave off up to three minutes that way. That’s what you call scraping the bottom of the revenue barrel. There’s now on average 15.8 minutes of commercials per hour on cable TV, up from 14.5 five years ago.”
Broadcast networks are concerned by the increasing use of DVRs by young viewers, resulting in aging of the live viewing audience and consequently, lower ad rates.
During the 2008-09 TV season, Fox experimented with a new strategy, which the network dubbed “Remote-Free TV”. Episodes of Fringe and Dollhouse contained approximately ten minutes of advertisements, four to six minutes fewer than other hour-long programs. Fox stated that shorter commercial breaks keep viewers more engaged and improve brand recall for advertisers, as well as reducing channel surfing and fast-forwarding past the ads. However, the strategy was not as successful as the network had hoped and it is unclear whether it will be continued in the future.
Increasing commercials in a dying industry? Right. And more and more viewers will reject the commercial laden model for other forms of entertainment. Chiefly, the Internet. Interruptions are annoying when they are the dominate substance. Then they lose the quality of being a mere interruption to the main. The commercial becomes the main!
If you’d like to see a short YouTube illustration of speeding up the sitcoms, here’s a clip of Seinfeld with the original and the shaved versions side-by-side. It’s still funny. You just get to laugh sooner.