My old boss and retired Huntsville, Alabama broadcast legend M.D. Smith IV has long been a fan of my essays, and he wrote this week to share his experiences as an annoyed media customer. Mind you, this man ran a family-owned TV station in Huntsville his entire life and sold it in 1999. He knew the good days of local television, never the corporate-owned model of today. I think you’ll find his thoughts about The User Annoyance Issue both insightful and entertaining:
I just can’t watch a movie anymore on TMC, TNT, or any of the cable channels (or network for that matter).
I just have to record it on my DVR and watch it later, or even wait 30 minutes to start watching the recording so I can skip the commercials. It used to be four :30 sec commercials, then five, then six. Now, who can count? I was in the business and it was our bread and butter. Sometimes I breathed a “sigh” while waiting to get back to the interrupted movie. Today, I just can not bear it.
I understand that viewing levels are down and advertisers pay less per spot. So what I see is MORE spots. I guess some are :15s, but no one is timing them. What we know is one subject ends and another starts and my mind is keeping track until about seven or eight, maybe nine or ten. Yes, some are “promos” for upcoming shows, but they are commercials to the bulk of the TV audience.
It used to be that way in the early radio days. You started playing all the hit music with limited interruptions and when you became Number One, you loaded up the log with spots and eventually ran much of the audience off who just wanted to hear the music. Then you did research, found out commercials were killing ratings, so you bit the bullet, cut spots and hoped to get the audience back running lots of ads and billboard telling them you played 10 songs in a row. (Then you hit them with a “Stop Set” of commercials and they tuned away again.)
Many times I have clicked on a link and the video started with a 30-second commercial. About HALF of the time, I decided before the commercial was over, that I didn’t care about that link all that much, and just closed the screen, deleted the email about that link and went on. If it was something I was very interested to see, I would wait. At least the countdown helps letting me see by the time I am pissed, that only 14 seconds remain and it keeps on clicking. Sometimes I mute the sound until content comes up.
And yes, splitting pages is an annoyance, which we ALL realize is not needed. Web pages can be as long as they need to be. But yes, with more and different ads all over the page, AND more page “clicks” for a given web site is a commercial ploy. It joins the clusters of commercials every 6 minutes on TNT to get you to watch 4 minutes of commercials. I am going to time some with a stop watch, but I know I have checked sometimes and the movie only goes 6 to maybe 7 minutes before another break occurs. A two hour movie lasts over three hours on TNT, or longer.
Not a happy guy about what’s happened to his old industry.
BONUS: My interview with Mr. Smith from 2005.