Watching commercials makes watching TV more enjoyable?

Ncis_lIt could be time to put down the remote. A new study claims that TV viewers who sit through commercials actually enjoy the TV show they’re watching more than viewers that don’t. According to the research, conducted independently by the NYU Stern School of Business and reported by The Live Feed’s James Hibberd, "People often adapt to the experience of watching television such thateach successive minute is slightly less enjoyable than the previousone. Advertisements, although independentlyaversive, disrupt this adaptation process and can therefore make theoverall experience more enjoyable."

Besides hindering the numbing effect, the study theorizes that the commercial break can also build suspense and intensify the resolution to plot points, as well as give you time to process what has just happened and "savor what is still to come."

Those arguments sound valid enough to me. I have, on the rare occasion that I’m watching something live, experienced a jolt of excitement returning from commercial — just giddy to be jumping back into whatever other world the show I’m watching exists in. But there are some questions left unanswered: (1) Who has the time to watch commercials? Can we just hit pause for 30 seconds? Will that keep the novelty of the show from wearing off? (2) As Hibberd points out, what about the showrunners’ belief that episodes are best viewed on DVD, sans interruption? Would these researchers suggest filmmakers start using intermissions? (3) Which shows are best and worst at dealing with commercial breaks? I’ll hand it to NCIS: Each time the show returns from commercial, it begins the segment with a black-and-white flash/freeze frame of the last moment you’ll see before the next commercial break. That’s built-in suspense — what are Michael Weatherly and Mark Harmon (pictured) going to be looking at? — that you still get to appreciate even if you fast-forward through the ads.   

Has the study affected the way you’ll watch TV?

Comments (28 total) Add your comment
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  • Ks

    Some networks have SO MANY comercials that you forget the show that you were actually watching, making me give up on the show until I can watch it on my DVR.

  • JMC

    No, just no, and in all ways it’s wrong. The reason why shows build up the suspense before commercials is to get the viewer back. I surf during breaks unless it’s something like Lost or the Office where you can’t miss a moment.

  • sharlin

    After I got my TiVo, I was amazed at how I suffered through 20 plus years of commercials. I am one who is so happy that I don’t watch commercials anymore.

  • shakespeare

    You know what I find funny, that EW.com will report on Christan Bale’s audio rant, which was taken out of context! But it will not report on its own self-so-called genuis writer, Stephen King! & the outlandish remarks he made at the Twilight author! EW you used to have BALLS, not you have nuts! What happened!

  • Tim

    As the reviewer – a non-science professional – already pointed out, this study pretty much sucks (especially considering how easy it would be to implement). That indicated the work is probably nonsense. Presonally, I enjoy watching TV *much* more now that I exclusively watch TV without commercials at all (my TV DVR removes them). I gave up watching TV real time almost a year ago, and I’m enjoying what I do watch more hen ever… and I do it in 2/3rds the time. :)

  • wendy

    was this study funded by companies who air commercials? lol

  • mells

    well, this article just made me appreciate my Tivo even more.
    Long live TIVO!

  • To Tim

    Would you then say the Neilsons are an outdated form to count viewrs of a particular show? IE Pushing Daisys? Just curious what your take on it is. That is what I am reading in these comments. Thanks

  • Carla

    I never watch my favourite series with commercials. NEVER. This research sucks.

  • BrandonK

    I object to commercials on principle. I try to avoid ads as much as possible…who needs all of that coming at you all the time? I don’t listen to the radio, I play games on my phone during pre-movie commercials, I throw away junk mail and delete spam emails automatically, I never click through on website ads, and I DVR everything I can. Obviously I’m still inundated with ads, but I do what I can.

  • BrandonK

    Shakespeare, do you really think Stephanie Meyer is a good writer? I love the Twilight books, but I agree with King that she’s not a very good writer. She IS a good storyteller, clearly, but her writing could stand some improvement, and in fact, it has improved since her first book. She’s no Michael Chabon or JK Rowling or Margaret Atwood. Or Shakespeare.

  • Ellen

    I have to say, I’m sceptical. The problem is the claim that it’s the ad-breaks that specifically make the programme more enjoyable. When I was a kid, children’s television on the BBC was entirely ad-free, as is the rest of the channel, but cartoons and programs would be split in half within entertainment programs by presenters running competitions, playing games, reading letters from the viewers and with musical performances. Surely that’s a better way to break up the programme? Plays have intervals, but they can be a time to stretch your legs and reflect on what has just been seen. Besides, surely that ‘adaptation to the experience’ is because most tv programmes won’t take the risk of complex plotting or dramatic tonal shifts. Television is sold as a wholly passive viewer experience – but try watching an hour solid of The Wire and saying you enjoyed each minute progressively less – you can’t. You’re too busy paying attention.

  • Ace

    You know, I actually find that this has some truth to it. When I watch something on DVR, I sometimes find I get destracted part way through. But if I am watching it live, I can zone during the commercials. That said, there are just too many commercials now. I like when Fringe does 60 seconds of commercials…so much easier to take than the usual 2.5-3 minutes.

  • t3hdow

    Shakespeare, what does King’s statement about Twilight have anything to do with this topic? Rant somewhere else. (though King admits he understands the series’ appeal, even though Meyer’s an amateur writer)
    As for this article, I don’t get it. Nobody would watch commercials if they had the choice. It cuts into a third of the viewing time in sporadic bursts. That gets annoying sometimes when the breaks reach the three minute mark (though I’ll contest to using one minute intermissions for quick bathroom breaks). I remember when USA had the LONGEST commercials when they used to air cartoons, and that was back in the ’90s. It’s getting kind of ridiculous.

  • Tipper

    I think it makes sense that the “breaks” heighten the viewing experience. Much in the same way that a chapter break in a book works. Sure, there you can flip to the next page without being forced to watch an ad for Cialix or Subaru, but the break is the thing. I can’t be the only one who, even when I’m watching a show on my DVR, will stop it at the commercial break to go get a drink or something. It makes the cliffhanger more fun if you draw it out. That all being said, ads are not my ideal way to make a break, but how else are shows going to be made without ad revenue? Ultimately, I’m on board with breaks in programming, and can accept that those have to be ads for monetary reasons, but I would love them to be shorter than the three+ minutes they seem to be these days. Anything over two minutes is just horrible. I’ll channel surf away and not come back.

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