Networks Wait to Start Breaks in Dramas

May 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

If it seems like you’re able to relax a bit more and enjoy your favorite network dramas a little longer than in the past, it’s not your imagination.
In an effort to hook viewers on the shows—and to keep them tuned in when commercials do appear—the broadcast networks this season have been letting dramas unspool a bit longer before the break, according to a report from ad buyer Magna Global analyzing commercial pods.
The networks are getting ready for the advent of commercial ratings; they’re also trying to lull viewers using digital video recorders so that their fingers aren’t poised on the fast-forward button.
For the Big Four networks, the first commercial hasn’t been appearing in dramas until, on average, 5 minutes and 55 seconds into the show during the current season. Last season, the first spot hit at 5:15, and the season before that, it was 4:49.
ABC had been the most patient in its dramas, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost.” The first commercial doesn’t appear until 8 minutes and 33 seconds into the program. On Fox, the first commercial appears 6 minutes and 10 seconds into its dramas, such as “24” and “House.” On CBS dramas, commercials kick in at 4:43 and on NBC, it’s 4:43.
In comedies, the trend is the opposite, with networks jumping in with commercials earlier than last year. On average for the four networks, the first spot clocks in at 4 minutes and 43 seconds, compared to 4:50 last season. But it’s much later than in the 2004-05 season, when the first commercial pod started just over 4 minutes into the comedy.
NBC waits the longest to bring a word from the sponsor to viewers of its comedies, waiting 5 minutes and 24 seconds, up from 3:31 the prior season. Fox doesn’t start interrupting the laughs until 5:13 and ABC starts its ads at 4:53. It’s no laughing matter that CBS’s comedies cut to the first spot at 2:53.
Magna Global said it taped and logged program and commercial information by hand for its pod study because it believes Nielsen Media Research doesn’t measure promos properly and includes local commercials as program time. The agency looked at about 60 prime-time shows per season and one episode per show per month in November, December, January and February.
Like a study released last month by MindShare, Magna also found the networks have not increased clutter this season. In fact, Magna found the average commercial pod on the Big Four networks actually got shorter this season.
On average, commercial pods in dramas were 3 minutes and 19 seconds in length, down from 3:22 last season. CBS had the shortest pods in dramas at 3:14, followed by Fox at 3:16. ABC’s were the longest at 3:25, beating NBC by a second. NBC’s pods were longer than last year by three seconds.
In comedies, pod length dropped to 2 minutes and 47 seconds from 2:51 last year. The shortest pods were CBS’s at 2:37. The longest were on NBC at 2:53.
Overall clutter, combining national and local commercials and network promos, was down in both program genres, declining to 16 minutes and 29 seconds in dramas from 16:37 and to 8 minutes and 24 second in comedies from 8:29. The number of national commercials was up, Magna said, but promo time was down.

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