“Cable TV Speeds Up Shows to Squeeze In More Ads” by Joe Flint. The Wall Street Journal, 2/19/2015.
A TV viewer was watching the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” when he noticed the Munchkins’ voices were unusually high, more so than he remembered. The cable channel, TBS, had used compression technology to slightly speed up the film, allowing more time for commercials. The compression is not enough to make the actors move like Benny Hill chasing girls through the fields, but it can be noticed in the voices. Time is also found by speeding up the end credits that scroll by so fast nobody could possibly read them.
Reruns of sitcoms, such as “Friends,” made in more leisurely times, are also routinely speeded up. Local broadcast channels are increasing the number of commercials, too, but not nearly as much as the cable channels that are losing ratings. As one top executive said, “It is a way to keep the revenue from going down as much as the ratings.”
I suspect they are in a downward spiral. As ratings fall because of all of the commercials, cable companies add more to make up for the loss, causing a further fall in ratings, and on and on.
No wonder TV is in decline. Cable companies see us not as customers to please, but as sheep to be shorn, pockets to be picked, yokels to be fleeced. I rarely watch The Weather Channel or MTV anymore because of the flood of advertisements.
The cable companies complain viewers unreasonably want free news and entertainment. Free? I am paying Comcast almost $100 a month, over $1,000 a year! That’s free?
The “Back” button on my TV remote is noticeably worn because I am always flipping back and forth trying to avoid commercials, but they have gotten too smart. All programs air their commercials at the same time. Isn’t this collusion the same as price-fixing? I used to watch shows on “On Demand” so I could fast-forward through the commercials, but they disconnected that function. Thanks, Comcast! As if forcing me to watch a commercial will entice me to buy the product. Who thinks like that?
PBS could do me a big favor by emailing me when their membership drive is on so I could avoid watching Deepak Chopra and all of the silly health gurus they put on only at those times. It is hard enough to tolerate the guilt-inducing society women and local business CEOs that seem to go endlessly on and on during their “membership breaks.” And notice how many popular PBS shows are preceded by commercials now. When did that start? You seriously expect me to watch your commercials, pay my cable bill, and then contribute money besides? You already get money from me through government grants. Where do you think that comes from?
Years ago, I gave up on radio, both AM and FM because of the commercials. I have even discarded my bedside radio. I miss what it was, but not what it became. Remember when TV ran only one commercial per break? Now they run six or more. Radio is a much cheaper medium, but they, too, quickly joined in with multiple commercials—and also lost their listeners.
I don’t even go to The Weather Channel website from my computer because their many ads take too long to download. I scroll to my local weather and it jumps down a screen or two as more ads continue to load. And do not click on their featured stories or you will end up in advertising never-never land where the only way back is to exit your browser and start all over. Talk about killing the golden goose. Instead, I go to the smaller AccuWeather website, at least until they get greedy, too.
I subscribe to our Wilmington newspaper, the News-Journal, just to help keep the local politicians honest. But the newspaper, too, fights declining readership with more ads that results in more losses of readership. They love to wrap a section in a half-page advertisement that you cannot avoid as you hunt for the section you want. They even slap a dayglo orange advertizing stickers on the front page, covering up some of the headline. And they wonder why they are losing subscribers. They think is has something to do with the physical paper itself and are trying to develop readership for their website, but they have even loaded that with ads. Is there any hope for such clueless executives?
If I had the time, I would call the advertisers themselves and ask, “Do you think you will get my business by purposely inconveniencing me?” But teaching them is not my job.
As each mass medium becomes popular, it becomes greedy. It chokes us on advertisements, and we move on to a new medium. We went from AM radio . . . to FM radio . . . to TV . . . to websites . . . to apps. What’s next?