Monday, October 21, 2013


I've been thinking, of always, a lot about television and television commercials and sports. I've been thinking about this drug we have taken as a society that has made us sicker, not better.

Many years ago, when I was a boy, a baseball game took about two hours to play. Today, a baseball game, particularly one that is televised takes almost twice that long to play--something on the order of three-and-a-half hours.

Every moment, every pitch, every play and half-inning is divvied up and put under sponsorship. The play to commercial ratio is about one-minute of action for five minutes of promotion.

What happens next is insidious and invidious.

Put off by watching a stream of unending commercials, viewers go elsewhere.  (Baseball viewership has dropped precipitously since my youth. There are many reasons, of course, prime among them the rise of football, but I believe commercial inundation is among them.) Because viewers have dropped off, prices for commercials and therefore advertising revenue has fallen. So, we cram more commercials in to compensate for the loss of revenue.

More commercials leads to an even bigger loss in viewership. So again to compensate, we add promos.

The cycle continues until the game itself, either on TV or in person, becomes unwatchable.

I believe a similar malady afflicts all commercial enterprises. We compensate for decreases in viewership by adding that which is chasing viewers away.

Cable TV, in particular, seems to have a numbing one to one ratio of programming to promos. There is no show to sponsor, just clutter to further clutter.

If you look at older TV, say "The Jack Benny Show" from the 1950s and late 60s, there were integrated commercials, and about four minutes of commercial time every 30 minutes. That makes sense to me, but that is all thrown to the wind.

To advertisers today, your time is crap, it's worthless. So they beam at you incessantly to try to find your last dime.

It's a system that no longer works but one that we are bound by.

1 comment:

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Dropping the supply of ads would be a two-birds-one-stone action. By reducing supply, you can increase prices, and by raising prices, you force advertisers to put their best feet forward.

Put another way, watching ads wouldn't be so bad if most ads weren't so utterly awful. The Super Bowl is an example – advertisers spend major money and try their best to get something special.

Everything now is noise.