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  #1  
Old 10-10-2004, 08:38 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Why do the networks synchronize their commercials?

I like to surf when my show goes to commercial, but most of the time, all the other shows are in commercial too. I've always presumed this is so I'll give up and go back to the original show. But this implies to me that the networks are cooperating.

Aren't they supposed to be all cutthroat & competitive? Every once in awhile I surf and find a show that isn't in commercial, and I'm far more likely to stay there and watch. Isn't that what they want?

Why don't the networks purposely juggle their commercials?
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  #2  
Old 10-10-2004, 08:44 PM
Marley23 Marley23 is offline
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I guess they have to schedule them so they can run during the program they have been purchased for. Advertisers buy specific time slots. If the networks deliberately micromanaged like this, it could also create problems with the shows that are being affected.
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  #3  
Old 10-10-2004, 09:09 PM
Wile E Wile E is offline
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I'd like to know how they always know when I am going to get home and turn on my TV so they can make sure that there are about 10 minutes of commercials running so I can't tell what's on TV. I think it must be a conspiracy sponsored by The TV Guide.
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  #4  
Old 10-10-2004, 11:45 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Networks don't synchronize their commercials, but the standard time formats for television production guarantee that, since the shows start at the same time, most of the commercials will end up in the same place.
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  #5  
Old 10-11-2004, 02:29 AM
blowero blowero is offline
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I'm wondering if there are just way. more. commercials. these days, because I have experienced the phenomemon mentioned by Wile E. Sometimes I turn on the TV and it just seems like NONE of the stations actually have a show running.
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  #6  
Old 10-11-2004, 07:05 AM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
I like to surf when my show goes to commercial, but most of the time, all the other shows are in commercial too. I've always presumed this is so I'll give up and go back to the original show. But this implies to me that the networks are cooperating.

Aren't they supposed to be all cutthroat & competitive? Every once in awhile I surf and find a show that isn't in commercial, and I'm far more likely to stay there and watch. Isn't that what they want?

Why don't the networks purposely juggle their commercials?
This sounds like a good example of 'tragedy of the commons'... there's some reason for attempting to take advantage of the situation, and, in the long run, a much better reason for co-operation.

The opportunity for cutthroat behaviour to pay off is fairly small. If you try to time your commercials so that people are more likely to 'switch' to your shows, you still have to run your own commercials sometime, and so your viewers are going to have a chance to 'switch' to the other networks then.

The reason for co-operation is that all networks have an interest in convincing the commecial ad time buyers that people are actually going to watch the commercials. If the major networks have their commercials staggered so that someone can flip from station to station and avoid all the commercials, and the commercial time buyers know that, it's going to reflect on how valuable they think the product they're buying is. Competition for ad spots will decline and network revenue will decrease.

The effect will get even more pronounced once some research group releases a study on channel-surfing behaviour.

All of this is just a guess, of course... I have no special knowledge of commercial ad time negotiations and such.
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  #7  
Old 10-11-2004, 08:46 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by friedo
Networks don't synchronize their commercials, but the standard time formats for television production guarantee that, since the shows start at the same time, most of the commercials will end up in the same place.
I'm not sure I understand this. If you're making an hour show, and it's understood you have to create four separate little mini-climactic pauses so we can insert four commercial breaks, who's telling you that your first pause has to be at exactly 10 minutes after the hour (I made that up, I don't know when exactly it is)? Why can't one director make their first pause at 10 minutes, another director make theirs at 15 minutes, etc?

It's almost like the advertisers are saying, "we know they're going to start surfing, but as long as they're watching someone's commercial, we don't mind. As long as we're all broadcasting commercials at the same time, maybe they'll come back and watch the show." But they don't care if I watch the show so much as they care I watch the commercials. What's the best way to get me to watch the show and the commercials?

Is it safer for them to assume I'm going to be watching your show to begin with and stay, or better to assume I'm going to be surfing, find, and switch to your show, and then stay?

I dunno. I suppose the networks & advertisers just keep their heads buried in the sand and rely on those jack-asses who fill out Neilson's ratings to tell them "we watched Friends," instead of telling the truth that they surfed over and watched 3/4 of Survivor: Dimwits.
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  #8  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:03 AM
Redsland Redsland is offline
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Half-hour syndicated TV shows are generally sliced up into seven-minute stretches of "entertainment," separated by two minutes of ads, except at the show's half-way point, when there are four to four-and-a-half minutes of ads, depending on the station. A similarly simple and standardized system exists for hour-long shows.

Because so much programming is sliced this way, it is to be expected that if you channel surf during certain stretches of time, most of the channels will be at commercial. There will be exceptions, of course, due mostly to cable channels that produce their own shows according to their own timetables, and also due to syndicated programming that staggers out thanks to varying durations for theme songs, intros, etc.

Why does everyone do it this way? Most industries have found that standardization creates efficiencies, and the broadcasting industry is one of them. Under this system, every station thatís purchased "Friends" knows how much time it can sell during this show and exactly when that time will run. This predictability is good from a sales standpoint and from an operations standpoint. It gives the writers a common framework for their efforts. And any deviation from this standardized system is frowned upon, as Seinfeld learned.

Plus, as a viewer, it lets me know how much longer I have to hold it before the next break.
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  #9  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:14 AM
don't ask don't ask is offline
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This has become less noticeable in Australia as the free to air networks have taken to cheating on times so that you are "trapped" on the same network all night. If the 7-30 program ends at 8-35, you have missed the start of the 8-30 program on all the other channels. At one time I recall one channel had Friends "Super episodes" that apparently were 40 minutes long with adds. The two public stations have hardly any ads and so have lots of shows that run less tan 30 or 60 minutes.
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  #10  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:28 AM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask
This has become less noticeable in Australia as the free to air networks have taken to cheating on times so that you are "trapped" on the same network all night. If the 7-30 program ends at 8-35, you have missed the start of the 8-30 program on all the other channels. At one time I recall one channel had Friends "Super episodes" that apparently were 40 minutes long with adds. The two public stations have hardly any ads and so have lots of shows that run less tan 30 or 60 minutes.
Irrelevant aside: This has a name. It's called "bridging", and a lot of U.S. channels do this for movies.

In the US, most primetime shows begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time. A channel like TNT might start its evening movie at 7 or 7:30 in the hopes that you'll become invested enough in the movie not to change the channel. With commercials, the movie will run about three hours. This means that you'll miss most of primetime viewing because you're watching the movie. A pay channel like HBO doesn't care what you do because you're paying for the service. A commercial cable channel does care, because their bills are paid by commercials. So the longer you stay tuned, the more commercials you'll watch, and the more products you'll buy, the circle of commerce being what it is.

TV programming is a fascinating subject, no?

Robin
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  #11  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:30 AM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsRobyn
Irrelevant aside: This has a name. It's called "bridging", and a lot of U.S. channels do this for movies.

In the US, most primetime shows begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time. A channel like TNT might start its evening movie at 7 or 7:30 in the hopes that you'll become invested enough in the movie not to change the channel. With commercials, the movie will run about three hours. This means that you'll miss most of primetime viewing because you're watching the movie. A pay channel like HBO doesn't care what you do because you're paying for the service. A commercial cable channel does care, because their bills are paid by commercials. So the longer you stay tuned, the more commercials you'll watch, and the more products you'll buy, the circle of commerce being what it is.

TV programming is a fascinating subject, no?

Robin
That should be "primetime begins at 8 and lasts until 11, when the news starts.

Robin
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  #12  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:39 AM
Skywatcher Skywatcher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by don't ask
This has become less noticeable in Australia as the free to air networks have taken to cheating on times so that you are "trapped" on the same network all night. If the 7-30 program ends at 8-35, you have missed the start of the 8-30 program on all the other channels.
There's a station based in Atlanta which used to do this. Pretty much all their programming was five minutes off from everyone else during Ted Turner's tenure.
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  #13  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:49 AM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
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Originally Posted by Lute Skywatcher
There's a station based in Atlanta which used to do this. Pretty much all their programming was five minutes off from everyone else during Ted Turner's tenure.
That would be Superstation WTBS, now just TBS.

Robin
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  #14  
Old 10-12-2004, 10:55 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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There's probably some game theory in there; if channel A and channel B don't synchronise their ads, then a viewer might flick away during a break, become interested in another channel and stay there; if all they can find during breaks is more ads, they are likely to stay where they were.

Of course this only helps the channel that they are watching at the time, but the stations are going to want to assume that this means them and not the competition.


I dunno, maybe not.
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Old 10-12-2004, 11:02 AM
Skywatcher Skywatcher is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsRobyn
That would be Superstation WTBS, now just TBS.
Yep. I figured the call letters would probably be meaningless to our friend from Down Under.
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  #16  
Old 10-12-2004, 04:29 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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In fact, if I were a network programmer I'd argue that scheduling commercials all at the same time actually discourages channel surfing because the viewers instinctively know that all they're going to find is more commercials. They might as well just stay where they are.

And yes, the networks are running more commercials. Fox broke the dam in the early 1990s, and the other broadcast networks eventually joined in.

Funny thing is, over on radio, stations are discovering that too many commercials (a lot of stations are running as much as 24 minutes per hour) are starting to drive listeners away. Some of them are actually considering voluntarily cutting back.
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  #17  
Old 10-12-2004, 08:01 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Originally Posted by kunilou
In fact, if I were a network programmer I'd argue that scheduling commercials all at the same time actually discourages channel surfing because the viewers instinctively know that all they're going to find is more commercials. They might as well just stay where they are.
Which to me means they are keeping their heads in the sand, so to speak, and relying on Neilson's to tell them what they want to hear, which is we're all watching ABC, NBC, CBS & Fox, and ignoring the fact that many people are surfing and end up watching some of those other cable channels that choose not to cooperate with commercial synching. It's true, if I'm watching CBS I might not bother surfing to the other major networks because I know they'll be in commercial too, but they should be aware that I'm likely to catch something on USA network that isn't in commercial, and stay there.

Does CBS not care if they lose me to USA, so long as they don't lose me to NBC?
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  #18  
Old 10-13-2004, 11:01 AM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
Which to me means they are keeping their heads in the sand, so to speak, and relying on Neilson's to tell them what they want to hear, which is we're all watching ABC, NBC, CBS & Fox, and ignoring the fact that many people are surfing and end up watching some of those other cable channels that choose not to cooperate with commercial synching. It's true, if I'm watching CBS I might not bother surfing to the other major networks because I know they'll be in commercial too, but they should be aware that I'm likely to catch something on USA network that isn't in commercial, and stay there.

Does CBS not care if they lose me to USA, so long as they don't lose me to NBC?
What do you expect CBS to do... go off and set its own commercial schedule just because USA is? try to imitate USA??

If USA wants to rock the boat and operate out of sync with other stations, there's not a lot the other stations can do about that. There's no clear advantage for USA either, because (as I posted above) if they're in program while other stations are in commercial, then other stations will be in program when USA cuts to commercial. (Unless USA just runs less commercials than other stations, which does give them an advantage but also makes them dependent on other sources of revenue.)
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  #19  
Old 10-13-2004, 05:38 PM
levdrakon levdrakon is offline
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Originally Posted by chrisk
What do you expect CBS to do... go off and set its own commercial schedule just because USA is? try to imitate USA??
I don't expect CBS to do anything. I'm asking if the major networks only care about viewership among themselves, and not about the many other cable networks that don't synch their commercials, for example USA Network?
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  #20  
Old 10-13-2004, 08:10 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
Does CBS not care if they lose me to USA, so long as they don't lose me to NBC?
CBS would prefer not to lose you to anyone. However, on a typical evening the four major broadcast networks own about 50% or more of total viewers. All the cable networks combined take the other 50%. So if CBS is going to program against anyone, it's more likely to be ABC, NBC and Fox than any three cable networks you can name.
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  #21  
Old 10-13-2004, 10:29 PM
Hirka T'Bawa Hirka T'Bawa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MsRobyn
That would be Superstation WTBS, now just TBS.

Robin
Just to nitpick, TBS is still WTBS. They are a brodcast station here in Atlanta. They just don't advertise the W that much anymore. For example, during the Braves playoffs they played ESPN's feed for the games, and had their little WTBS symbal in the corner of the screen.
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  #22  
Old 10-14-2004, 06:04 AM
chrisk chrisk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
I don't expect CBS to do anything. I'm asking if the major networks only care about viewership among themselves, and not about the many other cable networks that don't synch their commercials, for example USA Network?
I would imagine that they care a lot, but there isn't a lot that they can do to prevent losing their viewers to, for example, USA network. Or, well, there's one thing they can do, which is try to deliver content that they think a lot of people want to watch.

As far as commercials, sometimes all you can do is pick a time to run some ads and hope for the best.
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  #23  
Old 10-21-2004, 12:53 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by levdrakon
Does CBS not care if they lose me to USA, so long as they don't lose me to NBC?
If CBS loses you to USA, they are losing you to NBC. USA Network is owned by NBC Universal. Competition between the networks extends to all of the subsidiary cable networks as well -- for ABC that includes ESPN and the Disney Channel, for NBC it's CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo, and SciFi, in addition to USA, and for CBS (Viacom) it's pretty much everything else, including UPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, TVLand, SpikeTV, VH-1, Showtime, The Movie Channel, BET, and Comedy Central. All of these subsidiary networks have a stake in synchronizing their commercials, and frequently do, which is one reason why you sometimes find only commercials on every station.
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