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September 2, 2015

Do we really need commercial breaks anymore?

by Brad Trechak, posted Apr 23rd 2009 10:03AM
Reality TVAn opinion was put forth at a Hollwood Radio and TV Society luncheon for reality television executives that questions the use of the 30-second spot in that type of programming anymore (the entire context was about the decline in television advertising, in general). While they were referring to reality TV, I was wondering if that question could be asked of television, in general.

Consider this: the BBC in England doesn't use commercials. They get money via other methods such as merchandising. While I don't think that would work in America, why ruin the flow of the show? The existence of Tivo somewhat renders commercial breaks moot. We already see ads scrolling around the sides of the screen during many television shows (Fox is notorious for them), not to mention product placement, so why not use that method for all advertisements for all shows?

I ask this of you, television viewers: would seeing commercials during the run of a program sell more products, or would it just ruin the viewing experience?

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How would eliminating or limiting commercial breaks affect local affiliate ads? I've been wondering this with Fringe since their limited ads don't leave room for local advertising. Does the Network perform ad revenue sharing with the affiliate? If not I don't see the practice growing.

April 23 2009 at 4:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The thing that bugs me the most about commercials is how loud they make them. Frankly, because they're so loud, I wind up hitting mute, thus defeating the purpose of making them loud. If they were the same volume as the TV show, I would leave my remote where it is and hear the commercial. They say they make them louder because people leave the room during commercials and they want people to hear them anyway. Well, if I'm going to leave the room during a commercial, I want to know when my show comes back on, so I would raise the volume in that case anyway.

I also agree with those above who said a SMALL ad in the bottom corner is acceptable, but when it covers half the screen, it's going too far. I actually remember watching something once where the ad wound up covering a subtitle that needed to be seen.

While overdone product placement is annoying, I can accept it to a certain degree. Actually, I think the commercials that I've been most likely to see were the ones that weren't actually a part of the episode, but featured one or two of the actors from the show. I wound up thinking that the show was back and unmuting it just to discover that I was watching a commercial. Actually, it's been a while, but I think a couple of those were kind of entertaining as well.

My dad had a tape of the old show "Rin Tin Tin" where they stopped and did a commercial break, and it was actually the actors, in character, talking about Shredded Wheat. It was "part" of the show without being crammed into the plot & disrupting the flow of the story. I realize that probably requires more money, but I've seen cast members of Psych/Heroes/etc in commercials during their shows anyway.

April 23 2009 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joseph Singer

TV has been so junked up with the popups you see during programs you'll have commercials no matter what.

April 23 2009 at 2:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I'm not watching on my PVR and skipping the useless advertising, I mute the sound the second there is a commercial break. If advertising wasn't so irritating and the same ones over and over and over and over again, it would probably be a lot better. Saying that I like the way it now so I can just forward over them and just watch TV. I pay a lot of money a month to watch so that's my right as well as everyone else's to just skip them! Some product placement would be OK, but let's not go overboard or you will loose way too many viewers.

April 23 2009 at 1:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Two things:

1. I think the burden of commercials is that they typically are of poor quality/stupid/too theatrical/cheesy. If commercials were more poignant, better targeted to the viewing audience, and actually had a tangible message that viewers could act on, viewers would tolerate commercials better.

2. There's about 5-6 commercial breaks during a show. I think the reason commercials are somewhat annoying/ineffective is because we are overloaded with them. What if during those six commercial breaks, we just had one longer (90 sec) ad that was well done and straightforward.

April 23 2009 at 12:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know other people are bothered by this, but a small logo in the corner of the screen wouldn't bother me (Coke, Ford, whatever). Fox taking up the entire lower half of the screen is a different story - don't want to get started on that...

It probably wouldn't be as much an issue if commercial breaks were shorter either. Those 15-20 second spots placed throughout shows on Hulu or other online outlets are hardly worth the effort to skip.

Fox is on the right track w/ Dollhouse & Fringe with their limited commercial breaks, but those breaks need to be even shorter to discourage DVR viewers from skipping.

Especially since most DVR's support a handy 30 second skip...

April 23 2009 at 11:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Gunter

What is being done on Fringe etc with limited breaks of a specific time,and shows sponsored by one company will probably grow.I also think placment and ads within the show window will also grow.I also think you'll see more of the "pay or put up with ads to get extra stuff online" idea.Commercials themselves are a dying breed like it or not and like it or not there will be replacements for them.Plus I believe some shows will gain viewers if they know the hour will have 50 or 55 minutes of show versus 48 even with placment and other stuff.

April 23 2009 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A TV license is by far the most unamerican thing one could possibly consider. Merchandising would never work, and that means there is no other way - other than pay TV - to fund the production of TV shows.

Of course commercials ruin the viewing experience, I don't see how anyone could say otherwise. If you enjoy 5 minutes of watching an animated gecko, a crazy lady named "Flo" and a big deep-voiced black man yap about which auto insurance company is cheapest (they can't all be the cheapest one so at least 2 of them are lying) then you have serious mental problems. But it's the tradeoff we pay for having otherwise free TV shows.

I'd be willing to pay $100 per month for TV with no commercials and no reality shows and no product placement. Reality shows are too cheap to produce (no writing, no scenes, too cheap and easy). I love HBO and am happy to pay for it. The problem is I don't think most people would be willing to do this. And there is a huge free-rider problem. Moreover, I'm not sure $100/mo would be enough.

April 23 2009 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I actually don't mind the idea of commercials popping up from time to time at the bottom of the show or on the sides, that way even with TiVo you have to see them. I think that totally makes sense, shows like TSCC & Dollhouse could be sponsored that way, and while it might be a little annoying from time to time, it definitely would allow the shows to stay on air with advertising dollars, and make DVR's and TiVo ratings mean something.

The point of fast forwarding through the commercial is the content in commercials isn't appealing, but if the show is still playing, then there's no reason to fast forward.

As long as this isn't done every 10 seconds, I wouldn't mind it. Maybe if it's done like ESPN does the updates, at specific times of each hour, like on the 20 & 50 of the hour, and lasts about 90 seconds.

One big thing, they would need to make sure to shrink the screen, rather than doing the TNT thing and doing an overlay where it interferes with the action.

April 23 2009 at 11:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have no problems with product placement (although on occasion, Sean & Gus would all but turn and proclaim the merits of Dunkin Donuts to the audience - not sure if they were mocking pp or if it was just done poorly).

Personally, it takes more away from the show when characters are drinking what is obviously Pepsi, but there is no print on the can.

For that matter, why couldn't Chuck actually work for Best Buy?

April 23 2009 at 11:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to philly_phenom's comment
Pete Lawson

It would have to be Wal*Mart really, for brand penetration in to the international markets. I'm sure they could easily take over the Buy More though.

April 23 2009 at 11:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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