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The Network TV Con

October 26, 2023

For far too long radio has played third fiddle to network television. As we have gotten dinged by all the pure play streaming services, network TV still rakes in its unfair share of ad spending, even though the networks, outside of news and sports programming, are getting killed by the likes of Netflix and its ilk.

Like a lot people I watch very little prime time network programming. However, I am completely hooked on The Amazing Race. I don’t think I’ve missed an episode since its inception. Do I watch it in real time? Absolutely not.

Here’s where the cheating part comes in. The networks are kind enough to mark their commercial breaks on the recording. These areas are in yellow, so it makes it easier to skip the commercials. What makes this even better is that when you hit fast forward it will automatically stop when the content resumes. At least, that’s how it used to work. The networks have adapted the cheat.

Now, the fast forward stops when the network promos begin at the end of the stop set. You blow by the advertisers just in time to see a promo for one of the countless game shows now populating prime time.

I bet the advertisers are thrilled by this. That Expedia ad Phil is touting? I never see it. Same for the Charmin ads and the ones for countless drugs with countless side effects. (One question: If I shouldn’t take a drug if I’m allergic to it how do I know I’m allergic if I don’t take the drug?)

These companies are spending thousands and thousands of dollars trying to reach me with their pitches and the people selling them these time slots are making it easier for the targets (that’s you and me) to ignore them. Imagine if radio could do something like this. How happy would that make your local advertiser feel? How quickly would your phone ring when they caught on to the con?

The networks get away with it. The ads keep rolling and no one (publicly) complains about it.

It really is, well, amazing.

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant