If you suspected that television- and cable-network
programs are a bit shorter these days, you were right.
The amount of what the advertising and media industries
call "nonprogram time" -- but what consumers consider clutter -- is creeping
steadily upward, according to the latest report on the subject from the American
Association of Advertising Agencies (Four As) and the Association of National Advertisers.
Nonprogram time includes commercials, network promotional
spots, public-service announcements and program credits not run over continuing program
On the positive side, PSAs (for the Ad Council and various
other organizations or causes) have been on the rise since 1998.
Observing that clutter "may impact the effectiveness
of television as an advertising medium," the associations said in a joint statement
that buyers should "carefully weigh" clutter data in their planning and buying
Grey Advertising Inc. senior vice president Jon Mandel said
in a prepared statement, "If the television industry doesn't recognize soon that they
are killing the golden goose, they will lose the battle for the attention of consumers to
their content and the attention of advertisers as the major advertising vehicle."
In the "Big Four" television networks' primetime,
clutter grew 59 seconds last fall to "hit an all-time high of 16 minutes and 43
seconds per hour over the previous year," the organizations said. Commercial minutes
jumped nine seconds per hour to 11 minutes and 57 seconds.
The broadcasters' daytime -- already "the most
cluttered and most commercial-laden daypart" -- also hit a new peak, up 52 seconds to
20 hours and 53 seconds. Commercial time accounted for 16 minutes and 52 seconds per hour,
up 54 seconds.
The networks' evening-news, late-night and early morning
dayparts also posted "equally strong overall clutter increases," with the
newscasts' clutter alone up more than one minute to hit 18 minutes and 53 seconds.
Of 19 cable networks monitored, the "Television
Commercial Monitoring Report" found Fox Family Channel, E! Entertainment Television
and MTV: Music Television the most cluttered.
Fox Family led last November with 18 minutes and 25 seconds
per hour, followed by MTV at 17 minutes and 19 seconds -- the same amount of time amassed
by E! when it ran second last May.
In the 1995 Four As/ANA report, TBS Superstation led all
cable networks in per-hour clutter with 17 minutes and 20 seconds. Fox led the Big Four at
15 minutes and 22 seconds.