While NBC has been known to do some silly things in dealing with the way people view television these days, one thing it has been ahead of the other networks on is being more willing to experiment with traditional commercial breaks. A year ago, they were trying to double-dip during commercial breaks by putting product placement into a commercial (think about it for a second). About two and a half years ago, though, they had a more interesting experiment where they tried to make the commercial breaks more interesting to watch by turning them into mini-movies themselves. This seemed like a smart idea at the time -- as it was a recognition that ads are content too, and without a truly captive audience any more, even your ads need to be compelling content. That gets people to watch them -- even if they're using a DVR. Unfortunately, we never heard much about this experiment after it was conducted, suggesting it didn't go over so well (though, any number of factors could have contributed to that). Now comes the news that NBC's latest experiment is to go in the opposite direction. They've been trying shorter commercial breaks. These special "speed breaks" are limited to two 30-second commercials. However, the details make it sound like this is an experiment doomed to fail. First of all, they're only trying it for one week (this one) on an unnamed show on the USA Network (a channel with plenty of commercial breaks). They're not even doing it for the whole show. Just one break within the show. It's a pretty small sample size, at best. However, even worse is that since people are conditioned to the traditional commercial break, this seems likely to cause more problems. People who get up to use the bathroom or get a snack often have a basic approximation of how long they have. Finding out that the commercial break was only a minute can mess with that. That's part of the plan, obviously, as they don't want people wandering away -- but without letting people know, it's only going to serve to annoy viewers. Furthermore, as the article points out, it's not like the networks are likely to do with fewer commercials -- so it will only mean even more breaks that are just shorter in duration. This seems more likely to annoy than just a few long commercial breaks.
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