Ad nauseam

I was watching one of my favourite shows on television tonight. Yet another riveting instalment of NCIS, which I happen to enjoy. Other members of my family do not however, so I get it all to myself while they go about their business elsewhere.

When I say an hour, what I really mean to say is that I watch a show that is broken up into 10-minute segments interrupted by commercials, for an hour. Very often there will be over 7 commercials in a row (yes, I have counted) before I get to watch the next segment of the show. So in reality, I am probably watching about 43.5 minutes of entertainment and 16.5 minutes of useless, uninspiring rubbish that tells me that consumerism is alive and well and living in my loungeroom.

I have noticed, over years of dedicated box-watching, that the amount of 30-second-paid-timeslot-wasted-airspace is increasing. Ten years ago I might have seen 3 or 4 commercials in a row. Now I have to endure an extra 3 or 4. The more popular the television show, the more they try to cram in as many advertisements as they can get away with, in the hope that we won’t notice that our shows are getting more fast-paced and nonsensical in an effort to fit into a smaller timeslot.

A few years ago, when cable television was first introduced into our loungerooms, there was no advertising. The cable guys (pardon the pun, and no offence to Jim Carrey) did a deal with the Australian government, and advertising was banned for a set period of time. Cable was embraced in part because it was something new, but primarily because there were no commercials. We flocked in our thousands to get a slice of commercial-free paradise, and before long nearly every third household was cabled-up and commercially-clean.

After a while the government/cable honeymoon period expired, and little advertisements began to creep up on us slowly, so as not to scare us off after we realised what was going on. It’s taken a few more years, but I’m pretty certain that I can now channel surf the cable and, if my timing is right, generally get an 80 percent strike rate with a commercial on almost every paid channel that I have.

The keyword here is ‘paid.’ I would expect to be putting up with some form of advertisement on our free-to-air viewing. I guess they have to raise their revenue somehow, but when I’m paying for a service, it would be nice to get my money’s worth out of every minute, rather than having to cough up for something that I didn’t ask for, and has already been paid for anyway.

It’s a pretty lucrative rort in cable now. Not only do they rake in exorbitant fees for the privilege of the gold advertising timeslot, subscribers are also paying top dollar to see something that they have probably seen for free a few minutes before on a commercial station.

In my view, if I’ve already paid in part for something, I should be entitled to at least a slice of it. So advertisers beware. I might be soon expecting to slip into that savvy Saab for nothing, have that holiday to Venice for nicks, and maybe a night away at the Hyatt as a goodwill gesture just for tuning in.

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