In the old days, the early days of television, that is, we viewers tolerated the commercial time taken from the shows we were watching. It was a sort of unspoken agreement between the networks and the audience that they would take no more than two minutes on the hour and another two at the half-hour, only one minute at each of the two quarter-hour times, for a total of six minutes for commercials and 54 minutes for the stories being shown. And as time passed, the networks picked away at those 54 minutes and picked away so slowly we didn’t really notice the loss of story, the gain of those many bits selling drugs, beer, booze, credit cards, cars, and almost any other product or institution you can think of. And we all got angrier and angrier whenever it was time for a break and the commercials went on and on and on until one or both of us would scream at the set, “Come on, damn you! Get on with it!” We are now giving up 25% or more of the hour each and every hour—up to five minutes on the hour, four at the half-hour, and three or four at each of the two quarter-hour breaks. There are even programs when they break in at times other than the traditional four, and again someone screams at the set, “Hey! We just had a break five minutes ago!” One can take only so many potty stops or trips to the refrigerator. Then we had the nice discovery of TiVo and cable boxes that allowed us to record programs and watch them later, fast-forwarding through all the commercials. Oh, thank you, thank you, advances in technology. We’ve found that we can watch an hour show in only forty minutes. That comes out to twenty minutes per hour for the commercial messages.
Retaliation by the ad people: about three years ago, whenever we went to see a movie, we began to be subjected to commercials for the same products we saw on the little box, cars and coke mainly at first, but then more and more various ads on the big screen with no escape except to arrive just as the main feature began.
What will be the next step the ad people come up with? I can see them invading cell phones with subliminal messages the cell phonies aren’t even aware of. Oh yeah, folks with phones pressed to ears, stumbling into Cadillac dealerships to buy new Caddies, arriving home shaking heads, dazed expressions on their faces. “What in the world did I do, Honey? How’d I wind up with a new car?”