Will we ever get commercial-free TV?

I’ve always accepted commercial advertisements on commercial broadcast television as a necessary evil. I mean, how else are they going to pay for the shows? But when I first heard of something called “cable TV,” I just assumed it would be commercial-free, because, after all, you’re paying to get it. No such luck. :mad: Is commercial-free TV (other than public TV) economically impossible?

There are a few. Turner Classic Movies is commercial-free (other than promoting their items), for instance. They have a fairly low overhead and can get by on franchise fees alone. It’s also possible that other Turner channels (e.g., TBS) subsidize it.

And there are subscription services like HBO or Showtime.

Ultimately, though someone has to pay for things and the three choices are advertising, subscriptions, or pledges (like public broadcasting).

There will never be advertizing-free TV (with the exceptions noted by RC), but TiVo may kill the conventional commercial. Advertising will have to grow more and more intrusive upon actual content so you can’t skip over it. More bugs, more crawls, more product placement. Makes me very unhappy, but I don’t think the trend is reversible at this point, unless somebody legislates TiVo to be unFFable, which would be worse. Well, not worse in that I’d rather watch commercials in between programming than have it intrude on the content, but worse in that such things should not be legislated and the implications of such legislatiion would be pretty disturbing.

TiVo will kill the commercial just like VCR recording and fast forwarding did. :dubious:

Most TV watching is still done in real time. It’s easier than recording the show and fast forwarding, and people are usually lazy.

Cable TV started out commercial free. That was it’s selling point.

Not so.

Cable TV was started for people who couldn’t clear signals due to geologic obstructions (living in a valley, for example).

It wasn’t pay TV either.

That’s what the broadcasters are trying to figure out with On Demand services like you can get on the iPod now. Downloards of Desperate Housewives and *Lost *are commercial free, but cost about $2/episode.

Yes, I think it is inevitable that we’ll have commercial-free TV, but at a price. Premium cable channles like HBO are already there.

[hijack]Lissener, didn’t you have a post somewhere where you listed your favorite fifty movies or something like that? I was looking for that list… I would have sent you a private message, but for some reason I am not being allowed to send private messages by the board software.[/hijcack]




One difference between VCRs and TiVo is that it’s impractical to start taping a show once you’re already watching it. With a DVR, if a commercial break comes up, you can hit pause, go do something else, and come back later to skip over the commercials and resume the show. Everything you watch is recorded, even when it’s live.

It’s also far more convenient to record shows with a DVR than with a VCR. It’s a hassle to make sure there’s always a tape in the VCR, rewound far enough that there’s space for all your shows, etc. Setting a recording on a DVR, however, takes seconds and doesn’t require any more thought after that; after a week or two of TiVo ownership, you don’t even care about live TV.

But it wasn’t commercial free. It was just nearby network channels.

Well, for what it’s worth, many of the top producers in network television have already concluded that old-fashioned commercials are doomed.

A little over a year ago, I saw Dick Wolf (producer of “Law & Order” and all its spinoffs) on “Dateline” or “20/20,” talking about this very subject. He said, very matter-of-factly, that because of Tivo and similar services, old-fashioned 30-second commercials would be a dinosaur in a few years, and he was already preparing for that inevitability. How? Well, for one thing, he said there’d be a LOT more product placement in his shows. He was already putting the generic soft drink machine at the “L & O” police station up for bidding (I haven’t noticed if it’s now a Pepsi or Dr. Pepper machine).

You haven’t noticed . . . I haven’t noticed . . . I bet most L&O viewers haven’t noticed and never will notice. What are the advertisers supposed to be paying for, the subliminal effect?

I think the problem with commercial-free TV is that at least until relatively recently it has been a “public good” in the economic sense - in particular, it was “non-excludable” in that it was not feasible to prevent people from receiving it (until encryption came along). Without some government intervention, such goods tend to be underproduced.

In Britain, with its tradition of greater government intervention in the economy than the US, the answer was to make subscription to some non-commercial channels mandatory - the BBC’s channels are funded by a £126 licence fee which must be paid by all households owning a TV.

Some would say that since non-excludability no longer applies, commercial-free TV is no longer a public good, so mandatory subscription is no longer justified, and as others have said, HBO, Showtime, and Turner Classic Movies get by without commercials. I’m in that camp on principle, but I’m also sympathetic to the Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater/If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It camp, because the BBC does provide a good service.

And there are no commercials on BBC TV? That’s not surprising, but I never knew for sure. (We get some BBC shows rebroadcast her, usually on PBS, but of course that gives no clue as to whether they were originally broadcast with or without commercials.)

I envision a future where it’s like the Wayne’s World movie, where the commercial is built right in to the movies/shows instead of using subliminal product placement.

No commercials on the BBC, no. (At which point somebody usually says “apart from all the commercials about forthcoming BBC programmes”, but I see nothing wrong with them publicising their own stuff). There are several other commercial networks.

You can always tell when a BBC programme is a co-production with an American company such as WGBH. An “hour-long” programme is always 50 minutes in duration, to allow for the insertion of commercials when shown in the US.

You mean those damn things might get even more obnoxious?

OTOH, I do adore TCM for being able to show movies uninterrupted and in their proper aspect ratio, even if they are a basic cable channel. Obviously the rest of Ted Turner’s enterprise supports it. When they do put up their bug, it’s just a static “TCM” in the corner, and it’s more often than not outside the film frame thanks to letterboxing.

How soon before blipverts become reality?