Originally created 02/25/02

Study: television clutter rate at all-time high



NEW YORK -- If you think television networks are giving you longer breaks to fix a sandwich or visit the bathroom, it's not just your imagination.

The level of TV "clutter" - the commercials, public service announcements and promotions that interrupt regular programming - continues to grow, according to a study released Thursday.

During early morning, daytime and local news, the "clutter" levels reached an all-time high last year, said the report put out by advertising industry trade groups.

Daytime is the most commercial-clogged, with just under 21 minutes in a typical hour of programming. The level has reached 18 minutes in early morning, and 17:10 for local news.

In prime time, the clutter level slightly decreased, from 16:17 in 2000 to 16:08 last year, the report said.

Clutter levels concern the advertising industry, which figures the more commercials that are stuffed into an hour, the less chance their particular message will be remembered by viewers.

The advertising time continues to increase, but so slowly that many viewers don't really notice, said one expert, Marc Goldstein of the advertising firm Mindshare.

"I don't know if we know a breaking point, if there is one," he said. "Since it is being done so gradually, there is not the rude shock of four or five minutes of less programming material."

In the past few years, promotional time has also intruded on the programming, with networks often flashing promotional announcements about upcoming shows on the screen.

NBC shows the most commercials and promotions in prime time, while ABC airs the least, according to the report.

Among cable networks, Fox Family Channel and E! Entertainment Television were the most cluttered, the study said.

The report measured programming during one week in May and one week in November, as monitored by the company Competitive Media Reporting.