‘Clutter’ Rises on Network, Cable TV

NEW YORK A new study from MindShare shows that “clutter “is still on the rise.

Last year, according to the study, both NBC and Fox broke the 15-minute barrier and joined clutter-leading ABC in running more than 15 minutes of nonprogram material per hour in prime time.

“Every single study that has examined clutter on TV has shown that it has negative effects on both advertising and programming,” said the study’s author, Debbie Richmond, senior partner, group research director for MindShare. “Every year clutter is up between 1 and 3 percent. Cumulatively, it’s an enormous amount, at some point you alienate the viewer.”

Despite widespread concerns about clutter’s negative effects on both commercials and programs, over-commercialization continues to be a problem, according to the study, which used data from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, and examined all prime-time programming, every day of the year, across 14 networks.

ABC had the most clutter while CBS, which was the least cluttered of the four major broadcast networks the previous year, had the greatest increase in network commercials. NBC was the only network to show a decrease in commercial minutes.

ABC and NBC led the way in programs with high levels of clutter but there was a high-clutter index on shows across all networks including: The Bachelor (18:08 minutes of nonprogram material per hour of programming), My Wife and Kids (17:40), Everybody Loves Raymond (16:15), Survivor: Pearl Islands (16:05) and Friends (16:06), according to the study.

On cable, clutter rose on all but two of the cable networks measured in 2003. MTV had the highest rates with 12 minutes of commercials and over 15 minutes of nonprogram material in prime in 2003. ESPN was the lowest.

Avoiding clutter appears to be paying off in some ways. The study cites Fox’s 24 and its Ford F-150 sponsored premiere, which doubled brand recall for the time period last fall.