Faster, Better Commercial Breaks… Or Just More Annoying Commercial Breaks?

from the wait,-people-watch-commercial-breaks? dept

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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Comments on “Faster, Better Commercial Breaks… Or Just More Annoying Commercial Breaks?”

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Peet McKimmie (profile) says:

Like we get here in the UK on the ABC1 channel, you mean? Ten minutes of show (if you’re lucky) then a three minute break, half of which is promoting other shows that you’re never going to watch because of the intrusive commercials…? I’ve seen them stick a break in before the last *ten seconds* of a show just to keep you hanging on for the punchline. 🙁

Peet McKimmie (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“That’s nothing new. M*A*S*H always did that…”

Not in the UK it didn’t – we got it on an ad-free BBC channel. 🙂

And, more importantly, we got it *without* the intrusive and asinine “laugh track”. I almost got caught buying a cheap set of DVDs until I listened to one and discovered it was the US edition of the show, where they didn’t trust the audience to know which of Hawkeye’s quips were supposed to be funny and which ironic.

Professor Highbrow says:

Definately more annoying but it just might work (n

I’d have to agree that more frequent, shorter commercial breaks would at first be more effective, given the idea that if they are short enough, just like the days of the VCR, people won’t bother to fast foward through them, or swap channels while one channel is on a “break.”

But I would predict that this idea would become SO ANNOYING and bothersome to viewers that it would backfire after a while automatically, almost unconciously to the viewer, and eventually the viewers would just generally find it a “stupid channel” without knowing why, and stop watching it.

Which brings to mind the question,

Why are there still commercials on cable stations in the first place? It makes sense when given away via VHF/UHF/FM/AM broadcast for free, but aren’t consumers paying for the reception of the signal now?

I’m not suggesting that satellelite or cable service be entirely free, but why should anyone have to watch advertisements if they are already paying for the reception of the signal(s)? If I pay to rent a DVD, there’s no commercial interruptions, so why is it that Extended cable or satellite can bombard ads? These channels are not available through EMF waves, right?

Really, even think about the “timing” of ads per hour. Ever notice that channels owned by the same company put their ads on around the same time, so you can’t just switch between ’em?

Unchecked Corporate Collaboration allows this. That hurts progress under capitilism because the Underdog with the great new idea gets smothered (or merged) with a huge conglomerate.

It’s geographic monopolism, plain and simple. A long time ago some cities had an A/B switch to encourage competition. Thats back when we gave a crap about economics though…….

–Professor HighBrow

“Giving you bad looks since 1980”

jake says:

commercial breaks

The annoying aspect of it all has come to a head with entertainment tonight and the insider. watch these shows and clock the commercial breaks. 1) they promote each story at least 8 to 10 times before u get to it and when they get to it its a minute and a half. then you have mary (getting older) hart, starts a story on entertainment tonight and the insider finishes it ,whats this bullshit. Then each commercial break has 6 to 9 commercials. Guy your losing me I hope the rating suck because you shooting yourself in the foot.

Target commercials are 6 commercials in on , watch pay attention

21 m give me a shout.

gave up on nightly TV fans its worthless cant deal with commercial breaks..

OBM (profile) says:

Commercials push me away from TV...

as the rise of the commercial invasions into the shows I want to watch grows I find I’m being pushed more to wait for a series to come to DVD or BitTorrent so I can watch it without getting frustrated with the interruptions.

As it is I use a PVR and skip most of the ads but that doesn’t help with the stings and placement they litter the screen with (often over content because no-one is actually thinking about the timing of this crap)

For preference I watch content where the adverts are top and tail of the show but don’t interrupt the flow of the content itself.

I have an attention span of >6 minutes, especially if it’s a show I like so for gods sake let me watch the show (especially if I’m paying for the cable….)

I wonder if anyone has done the math to work out what the cable cost would have to become to do away with in-show adverts but maintain the current revenue levels?

Joe (user link) says:

They still have commercials?

I think they should pay us to watch/listen to that junk. As a former advertising executive, I’ve heard that the human brain is bombarded with over 4,000 advertising messages each day in some form or another. If your product is so weak that you have to invade consumer’s personal time to remind them to buy it, then they probably don’t need it anyway.

Luckily, I have an older model ReplayTV which has the automatic commercial skip feature. I haven’t watched a commercial in years.

Michael says:


I’m all for the better thought-out, better content variety, assuming that a commercial is a necessary evil. Remember the American Idol FORD commercials last year? We actually stayed to watch them because they were entertaining. And the Super Bowl commercials, becoming cult classics or bombs, but purposely watched by millions. Let’s do something worthwhile with the time, since they’re paying so much for it and competing with so many other distractions.

icepick314 says:

Commercials and Length of Shows

I’ve been getting TV shows on DVD such as Knight Rider, Air Wolf, A-Team, MacGyver, and some of the older ones such as Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents….

Compaired to the new shows such as X-Files, Desperate Housewives, Las Vegas, and 24, those hour long shows lasted about 50 minutes…during the 90’s the shows got shorter and shorter….some of the newer ones last as short as 42 minutes….

Soon, we’ll get hour long show blocks with 30 minutes of the actual show and rest commercials….

No wonder viewers are getting more and more pissed at commercials….

Now shorter breaks but with MORE breaks in between is gonna be REALLY annoying….better have an empty bottle handy or get a DVR so you can pause for a decent bathroom breaks….

I hate to say this but product placement on-screen maybe more effective than commercial products…I think that’s lesser evil than longer commercial and short but MANY commercial breaks…this way, at least people are focused at the product WHILE watching the show instead of going away from the TV during breaks and people fast-forwarding at the recordings….

Vinnie says:

Seems to work for Radio

Where I live a radio station tried to do something very similar to this. They changed their advertising so that no ad break lasts longer than 2 minutes. I don’t know if they just added more but it makes it much easier to listen to the station. I have yet to notice myself being bored to tears by commercials. It just feels like the music is playing almost continuously, by the time you notice that music isn’t on its time for the next song.

joan says:

i don’t have any inside knowledge, but my understanding is that the fees that we pay to the cable/satellite companies go to support their structure and their fees. with a lot of overpaid executives on both the cable and the network end.

once again, without inside knowledge, my take is that the commercials finance the programs — the studios, writers, actors etc.
like professional sports, it’s sponsor-supported entertainment. they all make a pretty good living. if they don’t get regular raises, they walk out. the commercials are gradually increasing in length because the money must come from somewhere and the execs aren’t going to take a pay cut.

icepick314 says:

Re: Re:

but how much more of the program are they gonna cut out?

as I mentioned before, the shows decreased in length as much as 8 minutes….

where do we draw the line? when the hour block show is only 25 minutes?

are you willing to watch 20-25 minutes of commercial per hour just to watch the shows? it’s getting pretty close these days….

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah – first it will be more commercial breaks that are short. Then, in time, the “short breaks” will become longer and longer – add 10 seconds here, 30 seconds there.

Next thing you know, we’ll have twice as many commercial breaks at the same length they are today, which will make devices like DVR even more popular.

wiplost123 says:

I hate commercials. When they go for a commercial break they tell you what commercials you are going to watch. I do not need a preview of the commercials. What the heck is up with the louder volume during the commercials. I hate watching a show where people murmur like the West Wing and then getting commercials five times louder. People are going to sue the broadcast commercials as a scapegoat for deafness when they isten to their MP3 player too loud. I know that the broadcast companies need commercials for money, but don’t kill us with them.

wiplost123 says:

I hate commercials. When they go for a commercial break they tell you what commercials you are going to watch. I do not need a preview of the commercials. What the heck is up with the louder volume during the commercials. I hate watching a show where people murmur like the West Wing and then getting commercials five times louder. People are going to sue the broadcast commercials as a scapegoat for deafness when they isten to their MP3 player too loud. I know that the broadcast companies need commercials for money, but don’t kill us with them.

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