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Will live commercials slow your FFWD finger? - VIDEOS

by Brett Love, posted May 22nd 2008 2:02PM

John Melendez - The Tonight ShowOne of the many problems facing broadcasters as we move into the future is the proliferation of DVRs and their fantastic ability to allow people to blow right through all of those bill paying commercials. In the continuing effort to thwart quick fingered viewers, networks are turning to live commercials.

The idea being that the live commercial offers something different enough that it will be worth your time, while your 300th viewing of Cisco welcoming you to the human network no longer even registers. The New York Times has a good article on how this latest incarnation of what is a very old idea is being implemented. They talk about spots that Kimmel and Leno have done and also give a peak at Spike's plans for a live three-minute game show that would run during commercial breaks.

As I said, it is a very classic television idea. Have a look at this old spot with John Cameron Swayze and a Timex watch that is strapped to an arrow and fired through a pane of glass, into a tank of water.

They just don't make 'em like that anymore, but they're trying. To get an idea of what the latest attempts look like, here are Jay and John, for Dockers. Click the little thumbnail of Jay on the top right to get NBC's funky player to give up the spot.

It lacks the nostalgic charm of the Timex ad, but I can see how it would work for the advertisers. People would be much less likely to skip that ad, as opposed to the standard Dockers commercial.

There is another angle in the fight against fast forward that I find more interesting though. If you are a regular watcher of BBC America, the phrase "stay tuned during the break" should be a familiar one. For those of you that don't follow any of their shows, many of them contain short extras in the middle of the commercial breaks. They are like DVD extras, short interviews with the actors. It doesn't ensure that you are going to watch all of the commercials, but as you jockey for position so you can hear what Eve Myles has to say about the scene you just watched, you're bound to stumble over a couple more of the commercials.

I don't know if any of that is going to be the answer for how to deal with advertising in our television watching future. But if nothing else, at least the advertisers and networks are trying something different.

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Let me say that that NBC video player is the most poorly-designed piece of software I've ever used. Without written instruction, there's no way to know how to get it to play, and as far as I can tell, once it starts playing, there's no way to stop it!

May 23 2008 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Torrents! Torrents! Torrents! Torrents! Torrents!

I don't care how many times people say it, nothing can compel me to sit through anything with adverts again. For an hour's entertainment (e.g. House), I would rather stub up 50c for the ability to download it/not have adverts, rather than for the networks to assume I'm happy to give 10 minutes of my time to watch largely irrelevant adverts for things I either don't need or want (it's very rare that an advert tells me something new, the only exception would be film trailers - that's a good use of an advert).

I get that adverts provide for 'free' TV, and I get that some people would rather/are happy to watch adverts than pay for an episode. But after three years without advert TV, I can't go back to wasting my time watching what the industry calls "two c**ts in the kitchen" selling me washing-up liquid (sorry for that nasty phrase, again I'm not lying it's an industry term).

Pipe me my TV through torrents, let me pay you $1 for a Divx, DVD-quality, advert-free episode of House which I ca keep forever. Over the course of the season you're getting $22 from me, with zero-expenditure on designing and producing a DVD, shipping it to distribution centres, having lorries drive it to stores, paying staff to man the stores. Just a straight $22 for digital copies of shows, making more money for them than other means.

There should always be choice in how people watch their shows - some will always be happy with adverts, some will want DVDs, some (a growing number) will want downloads. But while they are not offering me my preferred method, I have no hesitation in visiting the torrent sites, which are providing fantastic services. Legalise the market and the networks can make me a paying consumer.

PS Through torrents I discovered the gem that is Arrested Development, also Flight of the Conchords and Sunny in Philadelphia. I have since bought all these DVDs (two copies of AD), not because I want the DVDs but because I want to financially support these cultish shows. So because of torrents the networks have gained at least 8 DVD sales from me. I can't believe how slow/hesitant they are in adapting and creating new markets.

May 23 2008 at 7:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Getting people to watch commercials should be no different than getting people to watch tv shows. If you make it interesting and worth the viewers' time, they'll watch. Even if a commercial is worthwhile, you can't continue to run the same one over and over and over...or people will begin to tune out again.

May 22 2008 at 2:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Franklin's comment

Couldn't have said it better myself. When networks show the same commercial 8 times in one hour - how can they expect people to stay tuned???? Just stupid!

May 22 2008 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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