Out, damned spots

Now’s a really good time for me to tell you that most of what I write is not based on research or polls. If I’m basing something on specific research, I’ll certainly tell you.

Most of the TV-related subjects I write about here are based on:

(1) my own observations and experience
(2) what viewers, friends and relatives tell me, and
(3) what seems like common sense to me.

What I’m about to say fits into all three categories: TV stations run too many commercials.

That thud you just heard was a TV salesperson hitting the floor after fainting.

A consultant (yes, they do sometimes offer valid information) told me years ago that, in the case of a newscast, people see signposts telling them that commercials are coming. Viewers know that a commercial break could be anywhere from 2 minutes to nearly 5 minutes. In those days, people would start flipping channels when they knew a break was coming. Now, many people hit fast-forward. We’ve trained them well.

But what if we made breaks much shorter? Some could be as short as 30 seconds or a minute. Maybe the longest breaks could be 90 seconds. Viewers would quickly learn they can’t start flipping channels because they’ll miss something. And it wouldn’t be worth the effort to fast-forward through such a short break.

The ripple effect could be tremendous. Less commercial clutter could make a station much more enjoyable to watch. Viewers who don’t have a strong preference for one station’s newscast will start to choose the station that gives them more content and fewer commercials. What happens when a station has more viewers? The cost of commercials goes up.

Then, figure in the law of supply and demand. If fewer commercials are available, the demand goes up and the rates go up even more. If it’s done properly, a TV station could actually make more money, not less, by selling fewer commercials. The other stations will notice the trend and cut their own commercial time. That increases the demand even more.

I don’t see any losers here. Viewers get more content. Advertisers get a more attentive audience and don’t have to fight as much clutter. Stations get more money.

So why isn’t anyone doing this? No one wants to tell the sales folks they have less time to sell, even if it means making more money.

Less is more!