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Mind Your Business: Commercial Break

Mark Simon discusses the havoc being caused by TiVO on the commercial production industry.


"Watch our commercials. Please. We need you to watch them. Without commercials, you won't have free TV. Your cable bill will be much higher. Thousands of people who make their living working on commercials will lose their jobs. Please watch us."

We will now return you to your regularly scheduled ….

DVRs Are Killing the Commercial Production Industry"Wait! I'm not done! You keep skipping all the commercials when you time shift to watch TV. All this new-fangled technology is changing the way you watch TV. Your DVRs are evil. Your TiVO will cause the death of an entire industry!"

Now wait a minute. I've heard these cries before, as most of you have. But I'm not so sure DVRs are reducing the number of commercials we watch. Hear me out.

DVRs Are Not Killing the Commercial Production Industry I am the first to admit that I time shift when I watch TV. I record my favorite shows so I can fast forward through the commercials. Oh, my god! Am I killing the industry that helps support my family?

No. I don't think I am. In fact, I believe time shifting makes me watch more commercials. Yes, I said I think I watch more commercials now… I just watch them faster.

Think about it. Back in the old days when we had to watch TV live, shows we both loved and hated were broken into smaller pieces by short programming we call commercials. What happened when those commercials came on? We went to the bathroom. We got something else to eat. We yelled at our kids (or got yelled at as kids). We tried to get a quickie with our significant other.

We Never Did Watch Commercials In other words, we did everything EXCEPT watch the commercials.

Now we have DVRs to skip through commercials. What happens then? We have to stare intently at the screen through all the commercials to know when to start playing our show again. I argue that we watch more commercials now than ever before.

This argument has been brewing in my head for over a year. Just two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Tom Rogers, the CEO of TiVO, at MIPCOM in Cannes, France. Right after Tom's keynote speech, I climbed up on the stage with him to ask his opinion of my commercial watching theory.

We Watch More Commercials Now Rogers said that they have billions of bits of data about TV and commercial viewing. After hearing my theory, he said, "You are absolutely correct. People do watch more commercials now: they just don't always understand the entire message when it flashes by in just five seconds."

I had thought about that too. Having produced a number of commercials, and boarded thousands of commercials, I know that most commercials only show the company or product logo for the final three seconds of most spots and never more than five seconds.

This means that a commercial we scan in only five seconds only displays the all-important logo for around half a second.

I replied to Rogers, "Wouldn't it be possible to have a banner pop up on the screen when we fast forward through a commercial so we know what is being advertised?"

"Yes," he replied. "We are in the process of developing that very thing now. It is the next step." That's very cool.

There you go. I just saved the entire advertising industry… With just a little help from a small company called TiVo.

Now we are really returning you to your regularly scheduled article. Wait a minute. This was it!

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation director. He is co-founder, the ultimate resource for TV show creators. He is offering AWN readers a FREE MONTH of his TV Pitch Tips Audio Postcards. Go towww.TvPitchTips.comand register for your weekly audio postcards of insider Hollywood pitch tips, tricks and secrets.