The one thing I love more than following politics is watching television. I have my favorites like “Big Bang Theory”, “The Blacklist” and “Shark Tank”. I love TV not only as entertainment but as a business. While other 10 year olds wanted to be the next Hank Aaron or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I wanted to be the next Fred Silverman or Brandon Tartikoff.
I collected Fall Preview TV Guides (still do) and kept spiral notebooks in which I computed which networks were most successful based on returning series. Heck, I knew what lead-in strategy (1) was!
So in today’s essay I ponder a seemingly insignificant but quirky phenomenon going on in cable TV. It could be unique to my carrier (Wide Open West (WOW!)) but I doubt it. I call it the “truncated commercial”.
In this age of TiVo and cable provided DVR’s, few folks watch commercials anymore. But I do get lazy sometimes and just don’t feel like reaching for that remote to skip the ads. A couple of months ago I noticed that the last ad before the show resumed was truncated. I’m not talking a minor truncation. I’m talking just the last 5 to 10 seconds of the ad was shown. I assumed some error in the cable feed. Then I noticed it again, and again, and again.
Apparently this has become standard operating procedure. For example, Home Advisor, a merchant for one stop shopping for home maintenance contractors, has its entire ad stripped down to its ditty “hooooome advisor” and a display of its web address. It’s clear the ad isn’t made that way and you’re seeing just the end of the longer ad.
The same goes for a wildlife commercial which has been truncated to the picture of a tiger, a voice over “please help them now” and a phone number or web address.
Again, I stress these are not shortened versions of the ad as you will see with many merchants. These are sloppy chop jobs that barely convey what the ad is about. So I’m left wondering whose idea was this? I’m guessing these merchants have been given a grossly reduced ad rate and basically told “for this small price you can get a brief mention”. However the result looks so unprofessional that the advertisers who choose this option look second rate. I wouldn’t pay ten cents to have my ad butchered JUST to squeeze the ad in.
This is just one picayune way in which the broadcast industry continues to morph. It’s a far different landscape than the one I followed as a hobby in my childhood.
How has your interaction with the boob tube changed over the years? Do you miss the simple 3 network days of yesteryear? Do you sample even 10% of your current cable lineup? Do your kids watch TV or is it passé?
What do you think? The bar is open.
(1) Lead-in strategy goes back to the days when there were fewer remotes and folks had to actually get off the couch to change the channel. Networks would deliberately schedule a new, untested show behind one of their proven hits. The hope was laziness would prevail and after watching your favorite show, you’d stay put and watch the new one. Shows that failed to benefit from a good lead-in were truly dreadful and seldom lasted beyond one season.