Advertising and documentaries don’t mix and this is especially true in the US. When you have ad breaks every 5-10 minutes telling a story is impossible. You have to think of the people tuning in half way, and you need to think of those leaving after just one ad break. As a result of this the documentary has to be sensationalised. It also needs to be a loop. Mythbusters are a series that I enjoyed watching for many months. As the series progressed however they were made less watchable. The reason for this is coping with the advertising regime of the channels on which they are broadcast.
On watching these documentaries episode after episode you spend three quarters of your time being told what happened before and what’s going to happen afterwards. New content is about twenty percent of the show. If you were to cut down their shows to remove the repetition you’d go from a one hour programme to a 15 minute show. This is perfect for the web, but impossible to watch on television.
Commercial broadcasters say that they have to fight for the audience’s attention, that they have to make it as sensationalistic and entertaining as possible. They need to use breathless reporters, they need to use advanced graphics and more. They blame the audience for not having the attention span to sit through 45 minutes of content without switching.
The audience is not to blame. It’s the content interruption that is to blame. Television adverts are disruptive. They usually add nothing to the enjoyment of a show. Television watching, as it’s broadcast, has become old fashioned. Why watch something live when you’re going to waste twenty to thirty percent of that time watching adverts for products that are of no use to us as consumers at this point in our lives. If we record the show using a PVR we can skip the ads and watch the show almost without interruption. It’s pleasant. It’s efficient.
Advertisers are not happy with this. They want a guarantee of eyeballs. That’s where our new media landscape comes in. Video on Demand is so convenient today that if we like an advert we’ll go to youtube and other sources, find the advert and watch it. You don’t need a show for people to watch the advert. You don’t need an advert to pay for the content.