Study: Ad clutter no worse in '06


NEW YORK -- Ask any media buyer to name one of the biggest problems in the TV industry, and they'll invariably list ad clutter as one of their top gripes. But a leading study finds that if it isn't easing, commercial clutter at least isn't getting worse.

Clutter is defined as the amount of nonprogram time per hour, including commercials, PSAs or promotional messages. It also can include branded messages for product placement on unscripted shows.

New York-based media buyer Mindshare's annual study finds that at an average 15 minutes of commercial time per hour for broadcast and cable primetime shows, ad clutter was relatively flat compared to 2005. But the same couldn't be said for 2005, when broadcast networks averaged 2% more clutter overall and cable networks increased their nonprogramming time by 5%.

Among the broadcast networks, ABC and NBC were the only two to increase their nonprogram time, with ABC leading at 15 minutes, 38 seconds in total (including 10:35 of commercial minutes). NBC averaged 14:58 nonprogram minutes, down from 2005's 15:01 but increasing total commercial time from 12:05 to 12:48 year-to-year. CBS had the fewest nonprogram minutes (13:51, down about a minute from 2005), and Fox had 14:40 (down 20 seconds).

Fox News Channel was the leader among cable channels for amount of commercial minutes (13:05), while MTV remained the tops in nonprogram minutes (16:09), though MTV runs about four minutes of promotions an hour so it's only in the midrange for commercial minutes. Other networks on the higher end of the commercial-minutes study were ESPN, Spike TV, TNT and USA.

Mindshare pegged the CW's "Supernatural" and ABC's "What About Brian" as the two most cluttered shows on TV in October 2006.

The study said there have been a few encouraging signs by the networks to reduce clutter, including 36% of all networks running their first commercial block eight minutes after the beginning of a show (28% did in 2005).