We Interrupt These Commercials....


Two letters:

...I wanted to get the latest news and I turned to every news channel I could find but all I saw were commercials, one right after another. Finally, I gave up and turned on the computer and went to a couple web sites and immediately found what I wanted to know.

And the the TV people wonder why they are losing viewers!

-Sara - Chicago, IL


...I recently spent some time in your country and found that your TV seems to be mostly filled with commercials.  You've got some good programs, but they are interrupted a half-dozen times an hour for a group of up to ten commercials, one right after another. ...How can you follow a program with so many interruptions?  

-JT, New Brunswick, Canada

By some estimates, when you consider product placement plus the blocks of commercials, we are approaching the point where commercials represent one-half of programming time.

This is one of the reasons that, despite the fact that program content in many cases is better than ever, the percentage of viewers watching commercial television has been dropping.

Are all these commercials working?

When questioned, many viewers can't remember any of the products advertised in programs they just watched. The profusion of commercial messages is just becoming a blur that they are mentally tuning out.

To escape the commercial clutter many people are using personal video recorders to record programs so they can speed through the long blocks of commercials.

Viewers that can't afford such luxuries, simply use the "mute" button on the remote control.

To combat these approaches advertisers are going to product placement -- making their products clearly visible in the settings of sitcoms and dramatic programming.

Of course, programming costs money, so it's a matter of the lesser of the two evils—the commercial clutter or having to pay for the luxury of commercial-free programming.

Since most U.S. broadcasting is not government subsidized as it is in many countries, the money to pay for programming has to come from somewhere.

And, there is also this to consider: During major news events—the September 11th terrorist attacks, for example—the major networks dropped commercials for extended periods of time and lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

Of course, the argument could be made that any network or station that ran commercials during a time of major fast-breaking news like this would immediately lose their audience when people tuned to another station.

We have evidence that many viewers who have grown weary of the ever-increasing barrage of commercials and are turning to other media outlets. In the case of news, millions have now switched to Internet as their primary source of news and information -- and that number is growing every year.

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